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SC lashes out at firecracker manufacturers

Context:

  • The Supreme Court lashed out at firecracker manufacturers for violating the spirit of its 2018 judgment banning toxic ingredients like barium in fireworks, saying the prime focus of the court is the “right to life of innocent people”.
  • The Supreme Court has said that a preliminary enquiry by the CBI into the firecracker industry revealed rampant violation of its ban on the use of toxic ingredients like barium and its salts

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Environmental Pollution, Environmental Degradation, Government Policies and Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the SC probe and the issues found with Firecrackers
  2. SC on Firecrackers in the past
  3. About the Court proceedings regarding firecrackers
  4. About the NGT ban on firecrackers
  5. Why was the ban on firecrackers needed in 2020?
  6. What are Green Crackers?

About the SC probe and the issues found with Firecrackers

  • In 2017, the Supreme court had banned the use and sale of toxic crackers during the celebration owing to diwali, Christmas, etc., on the basis of a petition filed by two infants.
  • In March 2020, the court ordered the CBI Joint Director in Chennai to conduct a detailed probe into allegations of violation of the court ban in 2018.
  • A chemical analysis of the samples of finished and semi-finished firecrackers and raw materials taken from the manufacturers showed barium content.
  • Firecracker covers did not show the manufacture or expiry dates.
  • Many firecracker manufacturers continued to use toxic ingredients fully knowing that the court had banned them.
  • Children are employed in these factories and are exposed to the poison.
  • The toxic ingredients end up poisoning the air and deteriorating the air quality.

SC on Firecrackers in the past

  • In 2017, the SC had banned the use and sale of toxic crackers on the basis of a petition filed by two infants who pleaded for their right to life.
  • The court had said the sale of green and improved crackers would be only through licensed traders. It dismissed arguments that bursting crackers was a fundamental right and an essential practice during religious festivals like Diwali.
  • The Court’s endeavour was to strive at balancing of two rights, namely, right of the petitioners under Article 21 and right of the manufacturers and traders under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution
  • The SC said it felt that Article 25 [right to religion] is subject to Article 21 [right to life].
  • If a particular religious practice is threatening the health and lives of people, such practice is not to entitled to protection under Article 25.

About the Court proceedings regarding firecrackers

  • The manufacturers contended that thousands of employees earn their livelihood in the industry.
  • The bench said that it had to balance between employment, unemployment and the right to life and health of citizens. And asserted that its prime focus is the “right to life of innocent people”.
  • The manufacture, sale and use of joined firecrackers (series crackers) are banned as the same causes huge air, noise and solid waste problems – the Supreme Court had directed the Centre in 2018.
  • However, the 2018 judgment had balanced employment concerns in the industry and the right to life of citizens by approving the government’s suggestions for “green crackers” and those with reduced emissions.

About the NGT ban on firecrackers

  • The NGT in its December 2020 order said that only green crackers (which use less polluting raw materials) would be permitted for Christmas and New Year, in areas where the ambient air quality was in the moderate or below categories. However, owing to Covid-19 pandemic, NGT again prohibited the sale and use of firecrackers.
  • The firecrackers companies argued that the ban was an impediment to their livelihoods.
  • In reply to the argument, the Tribunal had reasoned that the “right to business is not absolute (Article 19 (1) (g)) and there is no right to violate air quality and noise level norms.
  • The Tribunal had reasoned that the “right to business is not absolute. There is no right to violate air quality and noise level norms”.
  • The NGT order of 2020 provided concessions to cities and towns that have moderate air quality, by allowing them to burst green crackers at specified hours.
  • The NGT noted that Odisha, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Chandigarh, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee and the Calcutta High Court had already banned firecrackers this year.
  • The NGT’s reasoning gave primacy to the precautionary principle in sustainable development over employment and revenue losses.

Why was the ban on firecrackers needed in 2020?

  • There were fears of a COVID-19 case surge during the winter, so it was incumbent on the Centre to work with States and prevent the burning of farm stubble ahead of Deepavali.
  • This annual phenomenon unfailingly pollutes the air across northern and eastern India, and imposes heavy health and productivity costs.
  • In the absence of pollution from agricultural residue, there might have been some room for a limited quantity of firecrackers.
  • But, climatic conditions of low temperature and atmospheric circulation at this time of year would still leave many in distress.
  • Only damage control is possible now, including steps to address the concerns of the fireworks industry.

What are Green Crackers?

  • Green crackers do not contain harmful chemicals and reduce air pollution. They are eco-friendly, i.e., green crackers are less harmful as compared to conventional firecrackers and reduces air pollution.
  • In green crackers, the commonly used polluting chemicals like aluminium, barium, potassium nitrate and carbon have either been removed or sharply reduced to slow down the emissions by 15 to 30%.

About the development of Green Crackers

  • These green crackers have been developed by the National Environmental and Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), a CSIR lab.
  • At the first phase of producing green crackers focus was on reducing pollutants and then further strategies will cover to remove pollutants from the compositions.
  • CSIR-NEERI have developed potential sound-emitting functional prototypes that do not emit sulphur dioxide. The crackers have been named as Safe Water Releaser (SWAS), Safe Thermite Cracker (STAR) and Safe Minimal Aluminium (SAFAL). The particulate matter will be reduced by 30-35 per cent in SWAS and 35 to 40 per cent in SAFAL and STAR.
  • According to the researchers, these crackers have the unique property of releasing water vapour, air as a dust suppressant and diluents for gaseous emissions that match with the performance in sound with traditional conventional crackers.
  • Basically, green crackers don’t contain barium substance which is used in the firecrackers to add green colour, as barium can cause burns, poisoning and deaths.
  • Green crackers will reduce at least 30 percent emissions using particulate matter Potassium Nitrate as an oxidant.

About SWAS and STAR

  • The reduce particulate matter including sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide by at least 30 percent and also eliminate the use of potassium nitrate and sulphur.
  • The two types have matching sound intensity with commercial crackers, that is, in the range of 105-110 dBA.

About SAFAL

  • Minimum use of aluminium that results in at least 35 percent reduction in a particulate matter as compared to commercial crackers.
  • Its sound intensity matches with commercial crackers in the 110-115 dBA range.
  • Product category consists of Chinese crackers, maroons, atom bombs, flowerpots, pencils and sparkles.

-Source: The Hindu

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