The Supreme Court's order stopping the sale of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR has set off a clamour by activists and residents alike in other metros for a similar ban, or at least greater restrictions. Even in Sivakasi, the centre of the Rs 5,000 crore fireworks industry that will be hit the hardest by the order, traders have grudgingly accepted the reality and are now deliberating on the way forward -- perhaps by manufacturing "green crackers," or environmentally less harmful fireworks. "As far as the fireworks industry is concerned, this verdict (of the Supreme Court) could lead to positive thinking on why we do not manufacture green crackers. The pressure will be there to explore such avenues," A P Selvaraj, managing partner of Kaliswari Fireworks, told PTI. Selvaraj admitted that production of green crackers emitting less or no smoke would be a challenging task, but said the industry was willing to explore alternatives. "Chemicals are available to make smoke-free crackers," he said, seeking help from the Centre. Mumbaikars also welcomed the ban, with some activists suggesting a calibrated approach towards Diwali celebrations in the metropolis that has a diverse population. They advised a complete ban on the "private use" of firecrackers, but said a restricted use by experts for certain celebrations should be allowed. "During the private use of firecrackers, there is no control on whether they are handled by adults or children. Such exposure to chemicals is very dangerous. "It will be good if a similar decision of banning firecrackers in private places is implemented in Mumbai region," said Sumaira Abdulali, the anti-noise pollution activist and founder of Awaaz Foundation. Public display of pyrotechnics with state governments earmarking open spaces with proper safety supervision, was amongst the host of innovative ideas proposed. "It is a decent way of enjoying firecrackers.
It can be encouraged in India," Suraiya Artes, another activist working in the field of noise and air pollution, said. The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board reportedly carries out a test of firecrackers every year at an open ground in the presence of environment activists. The sound is recorded and the data used to restrict the use of firecrackers causing loud noise. However, many activists claimed the tests were often futile, thanks to firecrackers going well beyond the permissible noise limit that continue to be sold in the market. Would a ban be welcome in West Bengal? The state pollution control board says it does not have the legal sanction to ban cracker sales in Kolkata. "We are not empowered by the court to do so unless any such step is backed by a court ruling and a subsequent legislation," Kalyan Rudra, chairman of the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB), said. The board, he said, was working in tandem with law enforcing agencies in the state to prevent illegal firecrackers from entering the market. "Without any new court direction on the issue, the WBPCB will have to go by the existing order of checking the sale and bursting of crackers that produce sound over 90 decibel. Our teams are on the vigil," Rudra told PTI. However, activists in the state blame lack of "vigilance by the explosives department, police and WBPCB" for the lax checking on the use of fireworks. Environmentalist Somendranath Ghosh noted that 200 illegal firework units were operating in the state. "There is already an appropriate act in Bengal to ensure a quieter Diwali as stipulated by the Calcutta High Court. We think the state authorities should implement in letter and spirit the order of the high court," Ghosh said. Concerns regarding pollution are clearly varied across different regions of the country. In Delhi, which is among the most polluted cities in the world, the SC had observed that due to the adverse effects of burning of fire crackers, "the air quality deteriorates abysmally and alarmingly and the city chokes thereby".