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Celebrating Diwali

by Sudha Chandrasekaran
(Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India)

Celebrate Diwali with minimum pollution and maximum happiness!

Very soon many of us are going to joyously let in light and dispel darkness. Yes, Diwali is fast approaching and it holds a special place in the hearts of several people. Together with the celebrations, there is this indirect increase in the environmental pollution because of the bursting of various types of firecrackers that signifies the herald of this festival. Unfortunately, every year, the quantum of air and noise pollution caused due to the bursting of firecrackers increases on Diwali day. Today, Global warming is on the peak and the whole world is concerned about pollution. Every environmentalist has only one phrase -'Reduce Carbon Emission'.

For most people lighting of firecrackers is the highlight of Diwali. Brighter the sparkles, louder the noise and greater the thrill!! In fact to many of us, these aesthetic forms of light seem so appropriate and most essential when celebrating the 'Festival of Lights'.

But then are we also going to add to the existing pollution?
How to celebrate an Eco Sensitive Diwali?

Now, that you are interested in celebrating an Eco - Sensitive Diwali, the first thing that you need to do is to make yourself aware of the effects the traditional Diwali celebrations has on the Mother Nature.

The three major environmental impacts that Diwali Festival has on our environment are, Air Pollution through Firecrackers; Excessive Consumerism; High Energy Consumption.

Air and Noise Pollution - Say 'No' to Fire crackers and 'Yes' to life! Firecrackers are very dangerous as they release toxic pollutants like sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, etc which gets interspersed into the air and cause a variety of ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, hypertension, etc. Together with the human beings, it also affects the lives of animals, birds and other living beings. But little do people realize that in our increasingly populated and polluted cities, the temporary joy of watching the firecrackers is soon replaced by the intense air pollution caused by these. Crackers that create a noise of more than 125 decibels at four metres distance from the point of bursting are banned by the law. The hazards posed by excessive noise pollution include hearing loss, high blood pressure, heart attack and sleeping disturbances.

Excessive Consumerism - An indirect but equally significant impact of Diwali on nature is the increased consumption. Since Diwali is also a celebration of abundance and wealth - many people believe that it is a good time to buy. Often, people go out and buy new items even when they are not essential. Advertisements and hoardings scream out to people offering sales, extravaganzas, bargains and discounts, thereby encouraging them to buy more and more!

To be able to conserve our natural environment it is important to keep in mind the following principles - Reduce: the amount of things we use; Reuse: the things we have in different forms until we have absolutely no use for them; Recycle: items that are no longer functional; Rethink: the choices we make when deciding to buy something and Refuse: things that we do not need at all.

High Energy Consumption-The festival of lights puts a considerably heavy load on electrical energy sources that are already overloaded. The use of electric lights to adorn homes, business establishments, monuments and roads requires a huge amount of electricity.

Though various schools and organizations carry out awareness programmes prior to Diwali to educate the masses on a pollution-free festival, many a time their efforts have been futile. The environment and pollution departments also publish notices in various newspapers about regulations to curb noise and air pollution, but to no avail. As per directions of the Supreme Court, bursting of sound-emitting firecrackers has been banned between 10pm to 6am. However, shockingly, the direction is openly flouted in some cities and firecrackers are burst throughout the night. This causes excessive noise and air pollution. On the receiving end of this menace are the elderly, pets, infants, patients in hospitals etc. Post Diwali, the roads are littered with the remnants of fireworks; the deluge of garbage including empty bottles used to send up the rockets in every nook and corner of the city, is a worrying sign.

Here are some ways to celebrate Diwali with minimum pollution and maximum happiness:

Community celebration is better than individual celebration: With the increasing trend of gated community all the families living in that community can celebrate Diwali in the common space. This will ensure reduced cost of celebration and less air and noise pollution. We definitely cannot stop burning crackers or else it will kill all the fun filled excitement of the festival. However, we can burst crackers responsibly. Instead of bursting crackers on roads or in front of apartments go to a wide open space away from residential areas to do the same. Before selecting the place for common community celebration make sure that it is far away from hospitals.

Say No To Sound Pollution: Brighter sparkles and louder noise ensure a thrilling Diwali. But the high level of noise generated by fireworks may soon be replaced by a ringing in the ears, or even temporary or permanent loss of hearing. Firecrackers can produce sounds from 120 to 140 decibels, thereby causing loss of hearing, temporarily or permanently. Diwali is best described as the festival of lights and not heart wrenching sounds. So there is absolutely no traditional justification for bursting those high decibel crackers as they are assault to the ears. Sound pollution is just as harmful as smoke from firework pollution and is more dangerous because it is invisible.

Traditional chemical crackers can be replaced by eco-friendly ones. Eco-friendly crackers are made up of recycled paper and the sound produced by these crackers is under the decibel limit defined by the Pollution Board.

Lighting up our homes is the most integral part of Diwali celebrations. The older tradition of lighting of earthen lamps or diyas is a possible alternative to electric illumination.
Clean Up Your Own Mess: It is completely fine if you burst crackers but it is bound to leave some garbage behind. However, you can always take the initiative to clean up the mess. After Diwali take a weekend off just for collecting and disposing off the left over garbage in front of your own house and surroundings. The smoke pollution on Diwali is understandable but what about the plastic covers of the fire crackers, the sweet boxes disposed offhandedly and the broken bottles in the middle of the alleys? Let Diwali not be an excuse for drunken and disorderly behaviour. Collect all the plastic and non-explosive garbage separately so that it can be disposed appropriately.

Cut down your shopping list and avoid purchasing non-essential items. Excessive consumerism increases undue pressure on natural resources. For instance, the pair of gold earrings that you buy on Diwali is coming from a gold mine that is not only depleting the gold resources of the earth, but also ruining several ecosystems in the process of mining. Instead of buying “one-time use” items go for recyclable ones; Help the less fortunate: While decluttering your home, donating the items to the needy is better than disposing them. Celebrate Diwali with the poor and under-privileged children and share your Diwali crackers, sweets and happiness with them; Rather than wasting your money in bursting crackers, donate that money for some charitable cause.

Keep medicines (for burns and stomach upsets etc.) ready for emergencies; and avoid arguments and accusations.

The festival of light seems to be the worst time for people suffering from asthma and other respiratory diseases with the city's air quality deteriorating with each passing year during Diwali. Heavy smoke, heaps of used explosives and papers and a din in the eardrums is what we are left with after the celebrations are over. It is hard to think that a few small changes like the above mentioned ones from our end can help prevent pollution in many ways.

With the growing recognition of the impacts of Diwali on the environment, several groups have started to reinterpret the rituals and traditions to become more sensitive to nature. Why is it that only during Diwali we start posing questions on pollution when we are adding to pollution daily in so many other ways? In every T20 match there is this use of fireworks; in marriages too bursting of crackers is an important ritual; the list is endless….. So minimizing pollution should always remain live in our minds from day to night and not once in a year. Diwali can be a good beginning for a movement, which in future will make people aware of, and endeavour them to keep alive their contribution, however little, towards the minimization of Pollution.


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