India’s fireworks industry is worth a paltry 2000 crore. Or barely 300 million US$. India’s daily fuel bill is over 500 million. Daily fuel bill. Adjusting for carbon density and adding in other sources of pollution (such as domestic coal), the total impact of Diwali on pollution is less than a third of a percent of all pollution created. Carbon footprint of other “discretionary” consumption is as follows : iPhone 6: 95 kg, Lamb: 40 kg per kilo, Industrial production of Beef: 35 kg per kilo. The weight of 4000 Rs worth of Diwali crackers : 5 to 8 kilos. Assuming 50% carbon conversion, were talking of CO2 of no more than 40 kgs. That’s less than a leg of raan (Raan is whole leg of goat marinated in spices and slow cooked in a Tandoor oven/ grill.)
Let’s come to some other aspects of the Diwali firecrackers hysteria being created by the media. For example take “non CO2” pollution. Crackers, by definition are exceedingly simple incendiary devices. They basically consist of paper (roughly 50% by weight) and carbon, pot nitrate, sulfur. That’s it. That’s the core propellant. In other words, other than the potassium nitrate, nothing in them is different from any fuel. So their contribution to “particularly noxious gases” is no more than that of normal fuel. Further, since they are made from basic and crude substrates, the density of these chemicals though considerable is a lot less than of a refined fuel like petrol. It is precisely because petrol is so dangerous that we had to invent internal combustion for it!
A back of the envelope assessment suggests that the weight of firecrackers sold in India is probably no more than 100,000 tons (2,000 crore annual sales, roughly Rs 200 the cost of a “kilo” of crackers, translates into 10,00,00,000 kg). Of this, roughly 50% is paper, so total explosive weight of 50,000 tons. Daily burn of petrol/diesel? 500,000,000 liters — or 500,000 tons — 10 TIMES THE NUMBER. PER DAY. On petrol alone. So leave aside the hype, if pollution control is what you want, then crackers should be far lower on the scale.
If we look at heavy metal or noxious stuff, here too crackers, because of their exceedingly simple nature pale in front of e-waste. An Astonishing 50 million tons each year. That is 50,000,000,000 kilos. No bets for guessing who wins the poison with metals contest.
It leaves us with the last angle: noise pollution, one where crackers don’t fare well — but don’t do so badly either. Here is a report from this year: all crackers in the market are below legal limits. ALL OF THEM! Even the noisiest which practically no one buys — the atom bomb — is at 99 Db. Lower than vehicular traffic noise!
The point of all the analysis of firecrackers is simple: bursting crackers as a means of celebration is far less damaging, polluting or even cruel than scores of other forms of human celebrations or normal human activities. Plus, it is only a once in a year event. That is not to say there is no case for hygiene, better working conditions etc for those who make fire crackers. It is also not to say they are non damaging. But of all the forms of pollution-creating human activity, it is way down, way down the list of damaging things you can do. You can do 10x more for pollution by turning vegetarian!
Ergo, those campaigning against firecrackers, who simultaneously utter not a peep for other sources and drivers of pollution, aren’t campaigning against pollution at all. They are campaigning against Diwali and the centrality of firecrackers to its enjoyment. So, if you really care for environemnet, do the following: Switch off the AC, Eat only veg food, Eschew all imported foods and drinks, Sell your car and adopt a bicycle. Stop buying electronic gadgets that have a yeti sized carbon footprint.
Till you do that fiberals, and till you find 8 LAKH jobs (which is what Sivakasi creates), take your sanctimony and false indignation elsewhere.
Bottom-line: We can all enjoy Diwali the way we want, and we can safely ignore the numerically illiterate and mendacious press/media that writes on this subject. Its a guilty pleasure, but a whole lot less guilty than slaughter, gasoline, coal and electronic devices.
Enjoy it your way! Happy Diwali.