* Pandemic & ban on firecrackers have hit hard local manufacturers
GUWAHATI: A sparkling 130-year-old legacy is blinking. The traditional firework industry in Barpeta district has been worst hit by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and latest blanket ban on bursting firecrackers during the Diwali festival this year.
With just two days left for the "Festival of Lights" – Diwali – there is hardly any activity in the firecrackers manufacturing units of Barpeta. After so many decades, the traditional firework industry has no bulk orders for its brand of handmade firecrackers. In 2019, the Barpeta industry sent firecrackers worth nearly Rs 1.20 crore to the Guwahati market. Firecrackers manufacturers from Bapeta used to send their products to Bihar, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Jammu & Kashmir.
Fireworks manufacturers in Barpeta have been coming out with newer products to take on their counterparts from Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu. The Barpeta-made fireworks are also claimed to be bigger and better in quality than those from Sivakasi.
GupajitPathak of the Barpeta Atasbaji Silpa Samabai Samiti told The Sentinel that the firecrackers manufacturers do not use barium nitrate, arsenic and lead while making their products. He said the manufacturers use sulphar, potassium nitrate, ashes, aluminum and custon dusts in making firecrackers.
"We strictly follow the Supreme Court's guidelines while making firecrackers. But we do not know whether our products fall under the category of green crackers," said Pathak.
The Pollution Control Board, Assam (PCBA) has imposed a blanket ban on sale and use firecrackers in Guwahati during the Diwali this year. The board has allowed selling and using green crackers outside Guwahati. But the manufacturers in Barpeta are confused with the concept of green crackers.
Sources in the PCBA said that the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization under the Central Government gives licence to produce green crackers.
Green crackers, developed by scientists at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, do not contain banned chemicals such as lithium and arsenic, barium and lead.