Tejas Dayanand Sagar-
After a blanket ban on firecrackers by the Supreme Court in October 2018, workers and firecracker manufacturers were fearing for their livelihood and business.
However, the industry was saved after the announcement of ‘green crackers’, but it is yet to reach Tamil Nadu’s Sivakasi, the manufacturer of 90 per cent of firecrackers in India.
Green crackers are considered eco-friendly as they emit 30 per cent less pollutants than the conventional crackers. These crackers were developed by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-NEERI) to reduce air pollution and decrease the health hazards in the country.
The research by CSIR-NEERI showed that barium nitrate is an important element, which aids the emission of harmful chemicals and hence alternatives are being looked at.
N. Ellangovan, the owner of Sri Velavan Fireworks, highlighted that the new formula developed by CSIR-NEERI is not supposed to contain barium nitrate but since it’s not possible to produce crackers without the chemical, they have reduced its volume and used some additives to retain the effect.
Numerous tests to develop green crackers have been conducted but the current formula can only be used for three varieties of crackers — sparkle, chakra and flower pot– he mentioned.
However, Sivakasi’s manufacturing units have been in the business for over 95 years and are aware of the entire chemical components and they have made efforts to reduce pollution by changing the formula, he added.
Vijay Kumar, the editor of Pyro India News, a fireworks trade journal, mentioned that out of the 1,150 factories in the region, only three– Standard Fireworks, Sri Kaliswari Fireworks and Sonny Fireworks — manufacture green crackers as rest of the units are yet to develop the formula.
Till now, NEERI has visited only one factory to conduct a demonstration on green crackers but the boremen (people in charge of adding chemicals to firecrackers) don’t have any awareness regarding green crackers, he pointed out.
“Water starts boiling and emits smoke and vapour when the chemical (given by CSIR-NEERI) is added and the officials are not revealing the chemical components to the factory owner or boremen. The boreman simply follows the instructions without knowing anything,” Kumar said.
According to Ellangovan, the CSIR-NEERI team also conducted a trial production of these products and approved them as green crackers. They also gave the samples to the three manufacturing units in Sivakasi and the units got certified by CSIR-NEERI and received approval from the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation.
Kumaravel Pandian, a boreman at the Sri Velavan Fireworks, said they haven’t received proper information regarding the formula and other details for manufacturing green crackers and have manufactured conventional firecrackers this year.
He highlighted that while they had their regular training session regarding what all chemicals should be added and what should be avoided while manufacturing crackers, no training session regarding the manufacturing of green crackers was held.
G. Daniel, a dealer and retailer of firecrackers, said: “The workers are willing to manufacture green crackers but there is lack of information and training, which is stopping them.”
Speaking about the cost of green crackers, he said whenever there is a new invention or technology, the price for that product will obviously be more than the earlier one.
Similarly, if new types of firecrackers (green crackers) start becoming available in the market, the price will definitely increase, he commented.
According to Daniel, factories have lost workers after the judgment of the Supreme Court to ban firecrackers. Many people have found other jobs fearing the shutdown of firecracker factories.
Hence, it is for the apex court to lend a proper solution in this regard quickly and help the people of Sivakasi, whose livelihood depends on firecrackers.