Fewer crackers, less pollution this Diwali, says Delhiites

October 29th, 2008 - 9:04 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 29 (IANS) Diwali was greener in the nation’s capital this year. The economic squeeze helped the growing environmental awareness cut down the amount of fireworks set off this year, leaving Delhi less polluted on the festival day compared to last year. “There was definitely less pollution this year as compared to the past years,” said Anshul Takshini, a resident of Patparganj area in east Delhi. “Whether it was due to the strictness with the fireworks sellers by Delhi Police or due to the anti-cracker campaign, the change is welcome,” he added.

A preliminary air quality report from the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) monitoring station at ITO near Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg here indicate that some of the pollutants were less this year.

The concentration of dust particles that can be breathed was 323 micorgrams per cubic meter during the 24-hour period ending Wednesday morning, compared to 670 last year on Diwali. (Known as respirable suspended particulate matter, they are about 2.5 microns thick.)

Sulphur dioxide was 15 micrograms per cubic meter this year, compared to 27 last year and Nitrogen dioxide was 53 micrograms per cubic meter against 83 last year.

The Delhi Police this year issued very few licences for selling firecracker because of stricter rules. High security at many markets ensured more police presence deterring unauthorized selling.

IANS reporters who visited seven markets in south Delhi on Diwali eve found none selling fireworks. In one in the Ramkrishna Puram area, one stand vending trinkets and lamps secretly sold a few sparklers at inflated prices.

“I have gone to three markets in south Delhi,” said a man buying sparklers who gave his name as only Rao. “None of them was selling firecrackers. Finally I was able to find a vendor selling it in black here but at exorbitant prices.” He paid Rs 300 for four small boxes of sparklers that would normally be sold for half the price.

In Agra, the Taj Mahal, which is facing the onslaught of air pollution, appeared to have gotten a breather too. The sulphur dioxide level was slightly lower at 20 micorgrams per cubic meter, compared to 23 micrograms last year.

But Deepankar Saha, the officer in charge of the CPCB office in Agra, said: “Environmental awareness is not increasing. The crackers continued to be burst till three in the morning.”

While people decorated their homes and apartments with colourful rangolis, candles and beautiful diyas, many did miss the crackers and sparklers.

“I searched for crackers in nearby markets but could not find a single seller. Though I finally managed to find one, he was selling them at very high prices,” said Rakshit Gupta, a resident of Rohini area in Delhi.

Shopkeepers said they sold firecrackers in the black market as the police had put in place very strict rules to obtain licences.

One such shopkeeper in east Delhi, who had stocked crackers worth hundreds of thousand rupees but did not get a licence, rued: “What can one do? If I had not sold it in black, I would have suffered huge losses. Due to high prices there was a dip in sales too.

“There was a drop of almost 50 percent in sales as compared to last year. People preferred not to buy crackers. Probably price rise also played a role,” he added.

Senior citizens were happy — because fewer crackers meant less noise and less pollution.

“My health suffers from the air pollution every year on Diwali and for a few days after. No matter what the reason was for less crackers, I am happy that hundreds of people like me will stay healthy,” said 74-year-old Mulk Raj.

Said Harikishan, another elderly man: “Not only us, everyone will benefit from less pollution.”

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