Kolkata: A perception survey among citizens and sellers of firecrackers revealed that only 35% citizens were in favour of a complete ban on fireworks, underlining the urgent need to sensitize a large populace about the disaster that fireworks can cause in the midst of the pandemic. Over 677 citizens and 23 fireworks sellers were interviewed to understand their perception on the crackers.
The survey, carried out by Bengal Clean Air Network (BengalCAN), a network of youths, medical professionals, conscious citizens, NGOs, government bodies and other key stakeholders who take action and are involved in policy advocacy to combat air pollution in Kolkata and in the rest of Bengal, showed that 67% of the respondents knew about the existence of green crackers, but only 19% knew how to correctly identify them.
Green crackers, mandated by the Supreme Court in Delhi NCR in 2017 and developed by CSIR-NEERI, reduce emission by 30%. Interestingly, 70% of the citizens surveyed claimed that green crackers were not popular mainly due to lack of public awareness. When asked about willingness to pay a higher price, about 64% of the respondents said they were willing to buy green crackers even if they were expensive.
Interviews of 23 firecracker sellers across three major fireworks markets in and around Kolkata indicated that almost 43% of the sellers sell green crackers, out of which 80% have less than 25% stock of green fireworks.
The sudden ban is a major livelihood disruptor, the traders said. “A sudden ban on anything affects a large number of people who have invested lakhs in it. It will also encourage illegal hoarding of firecrackers by customers a couple of days before the ban gets strictly imposed. The need, however, is not to ban fireworks but teach local artisans like us how to make green firecrackers or switch to making other Diwali products,” a trader said.
Speaking on the topic, Vinay Jaju, co-founder of SwitchON Foundation and Bengal Clean Air, said, “From the firecrackers survey conducted, we have seen most of citizens were not in favour of a complete ban. A large-scale awareness drive is the need of the hour to sensitize citizens so that the ban is successfully implemented.”
BengalCAN is mobilizing doctors and experts from different NGOs and other enthusiasts to explain the harmful effects of firecrackers and teach the people a more sustainable approach to celebrating Diwali.
Speaking about the blanket ban on the bursting of firecrackers, Ekta Jaju of Bengal CAN said, “We welcome this step as it will surely benefit the environment. It was necessary in the current pandemic situation. But we need to be prepared so that it is not a one-time action. A long-term strategy that manages both environment and livelihood concerns needs to be in place.”