The fireworks industry in Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu, is expected to take a hit of about Rs 800 crore in the run-up to Diwali this year, primarily as it tries to comply with the Supreme Court’s directive on environment-friendly crackers.
Last year, the unorganised industry that employs about 800,000 people, had earned about Rs 2,000 crore in the Diwali season. Sources said it expects to be fully compliant with the SC’s norms next year, thereby reducing losses.
Crackers from Sivakasi, a town about 550 km southwest of Chennai, have already been shipped to various centres for Diwali, which falls on October 27 this year. However, it has not shipped huge quantities to the National Capital Region as the SC is yet to finalise rules for it.
The NCR usually reels from air pollution around this time of the year because of burning of crackers as well as crop residue in neighbouring states such as Punjab and Haryana.
However, the air quality in the NCR has been better this year.
“In March, the SC provided clarity on what are green crackers. This helped the industry to work on such fireworks,” said P Ganesan, president of Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers’ Association.
He added, “We lost the first four months of production by then. This will lead to losses of about Rs 800 crore.”
Ganesan, also director of Vinayaga Sonny Fireworks Group, one of the largest fireworks manufacturers in the country, said they expected a favourable order from the SC, as most units had complied with its order. “Things are likely to become better next year,” he added.
On Saturday, Union Minister for Science and Technology Harsh Vardhan launched green firecrackers in New Delhi. He said 530 emission-testing certificates have been issued to manufacturers for new formulations meeting the guidelines for green crackers.
Emissions-testing facilities for new firecrackers have been set up at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-NEERI).
A facility to analyse composition of raw material has also been set up in Sivakasi to help manufacturers test their chemicals. A hundred and sixty-five manufacturers have joined this, and 65 more are expected to come in, said Vardhan. A green logo and a quick response (QR) coding system have been developed to differentiate green crackers from conventional ones.
Eight laboratories have together developed improvements in conventional formulations based on barium nitrate to meet the stipulated norms, implementation of which is subject to approval of the SC. It has also developed new formulations to reduced emission of light and sound, with 30 per cent reduction in particulate matter (PM).
“Factory-level trials were conducted. Once we were sure on 30 per cent reduction in emission, guaranteed shelf-life of the product, and safety of the process, the industry started to follow that as a norm. All crackers manufactured now are following NEERI standards,” said B Abiruben, managing director of Ayyan Fireworks Factory, adding that the new norms were yet to be ratified by the SC.
Ganesan said the ministry has submitted a favourable view on the improved formulation with the court. The time restrictions on bursting firecrackers, imposed by the court last year, continue to be a challenge.
The prices of firecrackers are also unlikely to go up despite compliance with green norms. The industry has started receiving enquiries from the US, the UK, Europe, West Asia, and even Sri Lanka for green firecrackers.
But, not everyone in the industry is enthusiastic about the developments.
Industry sources who did not wanted to be named said “green crackers” was nothing more than “a drama” staged by the government, CSIR-NEERI, and some manufacturers.
The Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO), the licensing authority for firecrackers, has rejected all of the 300 NEERI formulations except a single sound cracker. However, the minister has launched sound-emitting crackers, flowerpots, pencils, and sparklers as environment-friendly fireworks.
Another manufacturer said the industry had been affected almost 50 per cent this year because of the order on green firecrackers.
“CSIR-NEERI are not the authorities on fireworks. It is the PESO which is the authority for this industry,” said the manufacturer. “The PESO should have been consulted before passing such orders. Everybody and the court thought NEERI will provide a solution in the form of green crackers — but nothing of the sort happened.”
“Why was the PESO not invited to the launch? Because it would say nothing has been approved,” said another manufacturer on the condition of anonymity. The formulations should be presented to the PESO and approval obtained to before being labeled a green cracker, he added.