Ahead of Dasara and Deepavali, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on Friday said it had developed and brought to market “green crackers” that, by its own assessment, would reduce particulate matter pollution by 30%.
The organisation has signed agreements with 230 companies to manufacture and make them available for sale.
“We now have green crackers. A year ago, manufacturers of crackers were unhappy about the unavailability of crackers,” said Union Science Minister Harsh Vardhan.
Concerned about the pollution levels and the role firecrackers played in exacerbating it, the Supreme Court last October banned the sale, use and manufacture of crackers that weren’t ‘green’. This meant that these crackers couldn’t be loud beyond a certain limit, had to be approved by the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) and had to be free of mercury, arsenic and barium. However, compliant crackers weren’t available in the market.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court allowed the bulk manufacture of green crackers from May after the CSIR said its labs had been able to make trial samples and had them approved by the PESO.
The apex court is expected to take a decision on “improved crackers”, which have reduced levels of barium nitrate on October 22.
The court also restricted the time that crackers could be burst on Deepavali and police officials were tasked with enforcement. In Delhi, these strictures were broken and air quality — under the influence of poor weather and other pollutants — nosedived to “very poor” levels.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court allowed the bulk manufacture of green crackers from May after the CSIR said its labs had been able to make trial samples and had them approved by the PESO. However, only crackers that eschewed barium nitrate would be allowed and the boxes they are sold in bear a unique logo as well as sport a unique QR code (to trace their origin).
The apex court is expected to take a decision on “improved crackers”, which have reduced levels of barium nitrate on October 22. Meanwhile what will be available in the market this year will be “new crackers” meaning they use potassium nitrate as an oxidant and zeolite as additive. On explosion, they reduce the dust and smoke typically associated with crackers by 30% and also decrease sulphur oxide and nitrous oxide emissions by 20%.
These “new crackers” are available as sparklers, flowerpots, maroons and “atom bombs” and have been developed by the National Environmental and Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), a CSIR lab. “These crackers cost the same as the older [banned ones] and are significantly greener,” said Rakesh Kumar, Director, NEERI. Cracker manufactures say they aren’t sure they will be able to supply and manufacture in sufficient quantities this year. T.K. Balaji, proprietor of the Tamil Nadu-based Sree Balaji Fireworks and a CSIR-NEERI licensed manufacturer, said there were uncertainties about the production, supply-chain management and bulk manufacture. With the decision on barium crackers forthcoming only on the October 22, it was too short a time before Deepavali (on the 27th and 28th) to manufacture and retail, he added.