More light, less sound: On firecrackers and a festival of light  

To abate the noise crisis, governments must prevent the production of violative firecrackers

Updated - November 07, 2023 10:35 am IST

Published - November 07, 2023 12:15 am IST

The ‘festival of lights’ should not be allowed to degenerate into a festival of noise. Firecrackers are associated with joyous celebrations across the world; but, many are toxic, often too loud, and release noxious fumes when combusted. In 2018, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research launched less noxious and less noisy ‘green’ crackers, whose use various statutory bodies have mandated. The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules 2000 stipulate that firecrackers cannot be burst in ‘silence zones’, designated by State governments, and anywhere after 10 p.m. From 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. (i.e., ‘daytime’) and in industrial areas, firecracker noise cannot exceed 75 dB(A) Leq. The thresholds in commercial and residential areas are 65 dB(A) Leq and 55 dB(A) Leq, respectively. dB stands for decibel; A is a weight scale for human perception of loudness; and Leq means the figure is a time-average. The rules allow people to register a complaint if the noise overshoots by 10 dB(A) Leq during daytime.

Because dB is a logarithmic unit, an increase of 10 dB implies a tenfold increase in acoustic pressure, which is often beyond the point at which the sound becomes harmful. Research has found links between loud environs and sleep disorders, tinnitus, stress, anxiety, hearing loss, and cardiac health. More than 80 dB(A) in offices has been associated with hypertension whereas above 50 dB(A) at night, when the body is unaccustomed to loud noises, could increase cortisol levels. Traffic noise has burgeoned in cities where haphazard development has forced motorists to overuse horns. Many religious occasions have become synonymous with noisy celebrations irrespective of the hour. During Deepavali, firecrackers (even ‘green’ ones) routinely produce more than 90 dB of sound. If, say, people burst firecrackers at 90 dB for 10 seconds and the ambient noise is 50 dB for 50 seconds, and this pattern continues for four hours followed by 12 hours of 50 dB noise, the 16-hour Leq is 74.5 dB — which merits a complaint in residential areas but not in commercial ones, yet the noise is already harmful. Different loudness zones are also seldom publicly demarcated while some places are both residential and commercial. The rules are unclear about the sanctions to be meted out to offenders. Enforcement remains obscure. So, focusing on marginal improvements to firecrackers before every festival is becoming a red herring. India’s noise is a public health crisis. If firecrackers are not to worsen matters, governments must prevent the production of violative firecrackers altogether and cities must improve public access to noise data and adopt noise mitigation targets.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.