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Where are the green crackers?

At Sadar Bazaar, there is no sign of the new product which is supposed to lead to lower levels of chemical emissions on Diwali

As Delhi braces to cope with its ever worsening air quality levels, the Union Health Ministry is promoting green crackers, which the ministry claims will reduce dust and smoke caused by firecrackers by 30% and sulphur oxide and nitrous oxide emissions by 20%.

This initiative by the Union government is to get a grip on the fragile air quality index of the Capital city, as well as giving citizens a chance to celebrate Diwali with traditional fervour. However, they are yet to make an appearance in Delhi’s wholesale market.

The green crackers have been developed with the help of researchers from the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR).

Last year, the Capital city faced a blanket ban on polluting firecrackers before Diwali, ordered by the Supreme Court. Only green crackers were allowed to be sold but low participation from manufacturers resulted in old conventional firecrackers being sold in various parts of Delhi.

Right after Diwali, PM 2.5 (tiny particulate matter) in the air that enters deep into the lungs, reached as high as 999 micrograms per cubic metre. The prescribed standards for PM 2.5 is 60 ug/m3.

The green crackers which are said to reduce the PM 2.5 and 10 caused by conventional firecrackers by 30%, are going to be available in markets across the country.

Last week, Union Health and Science & Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan, while launching the green crackers, announced that 165 fireworks manufacturers have been roped in, while 65 are in the process to develop facilities to manufacture these green crackers.

The ministry has also issued 530 emission-testing certificates to firecracker manufacturers for new and improved formulations. These are set to meet the stipulated guidelines of green crackers.

Customers will have a choice of buying sound-emitting crackers, flowerpots, pencils, chakri and sparklers. These green crackers will have a green logo, as well as a Quick Response (QR) coding system. The distinction is left to the public to figure out.

“We might see a slight difference in the air quality during the day of Diwali. The figures will be able to reveal the success of these crackers,” said a senior official from Delhi Pollution Control Committee requesting anonymity.

Past reports from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have showed that conventional crackers contribute severely to air pollution.

As per a CPCB report titled ‘Ambient Air Quality & Noise on Deepawali 2018, “particulate levels started increasing since 9 pm on 7th November, and remained quite high during night. The areas represented by monitoring stations at Ashok Vihar, Jahangirpuri, Nehru Nagar, Okhla phase II, Rohini, Vivek Vihar and Wazirpur recorded very high particulate values during 11 pm to 6 am. This may be due to unfavourable conditions coupled with pollutants generated from fireworks.”

However, the report also talks about the “different meteorological conditions that govern the dispersion pattern of pollutants. When compared with the average Particulate Matter data during 1st to 7th November 2017 with the same period this year, the city average particulate concentration for Delhi is lower in 2018.”

Last year’s figure on Dussehra — 18th of October — show that the AQI was recorded at 276, according to CPCB data, whereas on this year’s Dussehra on — 8th of October — the AQI was recorded at 145, the CPCB data shows.

To see if these green crackers are available in the market, Patriot headed to Sadar Bazaar, once one of the biggest wholesale markets for firecrackers. But there were no visible signs of firecrackers being sold openly.

“Since the (SC) ban, businesses which were as old as 60 years were closed. Some switched to other businesses and some hoped to apply for the license,” said Kishan Goel, a trader in the area.

Criss-crossing through the market, we reached Royal Fireworks Manufacturers, only to find the shop closed. We asked a stall owner, amid the rush of shoppers, and were told the fireworks shop had been closed for the past 15 days.

There’s a sense of fear too in the market. Upon asking many traders about the shops selling firecrackers, the disapproval visible on their faces spoke volumes about how seriously they are taking the SC order.

One after the other, each shopkeeper had either no idea about conventional or green crackers, whereas some suggested shops which may have licences. However, upon reaching, they were found closed.

This also puts a question mark on the authorities’ ambitious plan of introducing green crackers in the market. Not a single shop in the area was seen selling them.

“They began distributing licences for green crackers. But the ban has put a lot of fear in the minds of traders here. Most of the traders resorted to other businesses since last year,” said a trader who did not wish to be named.

Vinod Sehgal, who came from Patel Nagar to buy the green crackers, was on a lookout for a shop. But like us, he had had no luck in finding one, “I have been in the market since an hour and I could not find a single shop selling any form of firecrackers —green or not green. I wanted to buy a lot of those because our family has always been fond of burning firecrackers. We are looking forward to burning these new green ones.”

Besides pushing for green crackers, which are yet to be available in the markets, the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoEs) launched an advanced Air Quality Early Warning System. This predicts places neighbouring Delhi that are likely to burn crop residue on a given day.

Developed by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, which comes under MoES, this advanced system will help authorities to take pre-emptive measures and safeguard the city.

On the other hand, the Delhi government is gearing up to implement the odd-even scheme from November 4 to 15 to curb pollution after Diwali. During a press conference, CM Kejriwal also said that “studies show that it reduces pollution by 10-13 per cent.”

Besides this, the government’s transport department is getting 7 lakh stickers for CNG-run private cars so that they are better visible on the roads and not be stopped by traffic police for checking.

Before Diwali, the Delhi government has also drafted a proposal to distribute anti-pollution N95 masks for free to children in government and private schools.

Through the initiative, an estimated 50 lakh of these masks will be distributed in the schools before Diwali.

The anti-pollution mask distribution initiative is part of the seven-point action plan of the Delhi government to combat air pollution.

Not just this, the Delhi government will also be organising a mega laser show in the Capital city on the day of the festival.

This is to encourage the public to not burst firecrackers, and celebrate collectively. The Delhi government is also making the use of water sprinklers and mechanised sweeping of roads to control dust particles as one of its topmost priorities to tackle the air pollution problem.

With only a fortnight left for Diwali, it is yet to be seen if any shops will open at all to sell green crackers.