We may think environmental degradation during Deepavali happens only for a few days. But, the negative impact it creates on the planet remains like a scar for many years to come
Green leaves in hundreds of trees turn brown, crumbling into ashes. Ponds and lakes fill up quickly with filth. Mountains of waste get piled up in no time.
Chemicals seep into the water killing an entire pond ecosystem like a slow poison. Fish struggle on the surface of these ponds gasping for fresh air. But ironically the air is thick with poisonous gases and smog. Many birds remain in their roost sites. Bonnet Macaques cuddle together inside their concrete jungle retreats. Dogs and cats run helter-skelter searching for safe hideouts.
If one were to see an aerial view, most of the cities, towns and villages across India would be enveloped in a deadly veil of smoke. These ghastly scenes conjuring the likeness of a war zone is nothing but the Indian festival of lights, Deepavali.
Celebrating a festival is no doubt a joyous moment. But why can’t we realise the immense environmental destruction it results in?
Where is the thoughtfulness in our celebration of victory over evil, when we actually end up destroying our fragile planet?
We may think environmental degradation during Deepavali happens only for a few days. But, the negative impact it creates on the planet remains like a scar for many years to come.
It would be an eye-opening moment if we walk around cities and towns to see water bodies, aquatic life, trees and soil, treated to extreme levels of pollution during the advent of this festival.
We need to change the way we celebrate Deepavali and the way we teach our children about this festival.
Let us nurture children to observe blooming flowers instead of igniting ‘flowerpot’ crackers. Let us guide them to watch star-studded skies instead of launching fireworks into the sky.
Let us engage them in conservation. This will change the way the festival is perceived among children and lead to peaceful and environmentally sensitive Deepavali.
Five ways to celebrate an ecologically sensitive Deepavali:
1. A ‘Cracker free Deepavali’ would be the best step forward. The money spent on buying crackers could be donated to an NGO doing good work in your own city, town or village.
2. Since Deepavali will be a holiday for all of us, a simple get-together could be arranged at home.
3. We could volunteer a few hours on the festival day teaching children, planting native species around our homes and initiate steps to nurture them or help elders at old age homes.
4. Native plant saplings, recycled products or a book could be given as gifts instead of cracker gift boxes. This cuts down waste.
5. Do not throw festival waste on the roads. We could segregate biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste and dispose it responsibly.
(The author is an award-winning nature photographer and co-founder of the Youth for Conservation. In this monthly column he talks about his passion for nature, photography and conservation.)