Dr. Dharmakanta Kumbhakar
Diwali, the 'Festival of Lights', is one of the major Hindu festivals in India. It takes place on the first Amavasya night of the Hindu month Kartik (October/November). The festival is also called as Deepavali, meaning 'row or clusters of lights'. The legend has it that the festival of Diwali was first celebrated in India on the day of returning of Lord Rama to Ayodhya from Lanka with his wife Sita after killing Ravana and rescuing Sita. He returned to Ayodhya on the Amavasya, which is the moonless night from his exile of 14 years. The Amavasya night was engulfed by darkness. So, the people of Ayodhya lit earthen lamps of pure ghee to dispel the darkness of the Amavasya night to welcome Lord Rama. Ever since, the Hindu people have been celebrating Diwali as a major festival of India with lights and merriment.
Earlier people used to celebrate Diwali by simply lighting earthen diyas. But nowadays, people celebrate Diwali by lighting electrical bulbs and bursting firecrackers. This is a big concern for every one now. The Diwali has lost its true spirit today. The true spirit of Diwali celebration has been engulfed by exhibitionism and commercialization. The lights of earthen diyas are overshadowed by strong electrical lights and firecrackers. There runs a hidden competition among people for bursting firecrackers. The people of Ayodhya only lit lamps to welcome Lord Rama. They didn't burst loud and harmful firecrackers to welcome Lord Rama. But, today we celebrate Diwali in the name of spirituality and tradition by lighting electrical bulbs and bursting loud and harmful firecrackers.
The bursting of firecrackers leads to the pollution of air and soil, as well as noise pollution. The smoke and gases that are emitted due to bursting of firecrackers cause damage to the ozone layer of the atmosphere and bring dangers to human as well as other living beings. On the night of the Diwali, one cannot breathe fresh air as there's smoke and gases everywhere emitted from bursting of firecrackers. The gases emitted after bursting firecrackers like Sulphur Dioxide (which causes skin allergy, skin diseases and conjunctivitis), Nitrogen Dioxide (responsible for respiratory diseases) and Carbon Monoxide (which causes blood cancers) cause many health issues.
The chemicals like potassium nitrate, carbon, sulphur, magnesium and cadmium that are used for manufacturing of firecrackers cause many diseases. The strong sound of crackers can cause auditory fatigue, whistling and buzzing in the ear and even deafness. The strong sound-emitting crackers cause noise pollution which leads to sleep disturbance, tinnitus, giddiness, headache, nausea, vomiting, stomach ulcer, fatigue, visual disturbance, abortion in pregnancy, low birth weight, mental irritation, noise stress, increased risk of depression and psychological disorders, stimulate aggression and other anti-social behaviours and decreases memory of children.
The strong electrical light and heat emitted from bursting of firecrackers lead to global warming, which cause health problems to all living beings as well as natural imbalances like climate change and natural calamities. The strong sound and strong lights of firecrackers disturb the normal life cycle of human beings (especially children and aged people), birds and other animals. Many birds and animals (especially pets and street animals) die during Diwali. Moreover, many accidents like burn, injury to eye and burning of properties can occur during bursting of firecrackers. Lighting of decorative light causes more electricity consumption. Consumption of more electricity is a big concern for a poor State like Assam.
As per the order of the Supreme Court, dated July 18, 2005, there is a complete ban on bursting sound-emitting firecrackers between 10 pm to 6 am in India. So, no one can burst firecrackers after 10 pm on Diwali. Further, as per the Environment Protection Act, 1986, and the Central Pollution Control Board, the manufacture, sale or use of fire-crackers generating noise level, exceeding 125 decibels, is prohibited in India. The administration and Pollution Control Board must be strict in this regard. Strong action must be taken against those failing to comply with the law. The administration must check and inspect the commercial stocks of firecrackers to stop the use of such crackers at the source. They must intensify the surveillance over illegal sale, storage and transportation of firecrackers and other similar goods by forming special task forces.
The shop-keepers must sell only specified fire-crackers with proper licences from the administration. The civil society and NGOs must help the administration in the implementation of the laws and in creating awareness among the people in this regard. The administration can screen short films, distribute leaflets; arrange meetings and rallies for sensitizing the public. They can take help of the media for generating awareness. The NGOs and school administrations can sensitize students and staffs about the harmful effects of firecrackers so that they can celebrate an eco-friendly Diwali by alternatives such as lights (lighting earthen lamps and candles) and flowers.
Diwali represents the victory of good over evil. But we are being evil by creating air and soil pollution, adding to global warming, creating health problems to people, killing birds and animals. We should be a little more concerned about all these. We must stop running after immediate enjoyment which causes harm on our mother Earth as well as on our future.
We should celebrate an eco-friendly green Diwali. We should avoid lightening of electrical bulbs and bursting high sound-emitting firecrackers. We should celebrate Diwali in a traditional manner, respecting mother Earth by lighting earthen lamps and candles only. We can use eco-friendly local crackers and natural colours, ensuring that sound limits are not violated. This may boost our cottage industry also. We shouldn't celebrate Diwali for several days. The celebration must be restricted to one day and it should end at 10 pm. It will save money as well as electricity and will decrease pollution and harmful effects of pollution.
The citizens must clean the areas of Diwali celebration, should dispose the waste materials in a segregated manner and assist the local administrators.