explained | Why did the Supreme Court crack down on firecracker makers?

The story so far: On September 29, 2021, the Supreme Court found that six major fireworks manufacturers had violated orders requiring them not to use banned chemicals such as barium salts and to label firecrackers according to the law. In a warning to manufacturers, the court said it needed to take a balanced view of the production and use of firecrackers, as a large part of these were bursting and people could not be allowed to suffer and die from pollution. He ordered the Environment Ministry to serve a copy of an investigation report from the CBI, which found violations after conducting a court-ordered investigation. The case was published for October 6.

What did the Supreme Court rule three years ago?

Three years ago, the court ruled out a total ban on firecrackers and issued orders stating that only reduced emissions and green firecrackers would be allowed, with strict restrictions on when they could be popped. The last orders, following others, concern a petition – Arjun Gopal et al v Union of India et al – filed on behalf of three children in 2015, calling for measures to mitigate air pollution and affirming their right to clean air under article 21 of the Constitution.

What is the controversy?

Firecrackers use fuel and oxidants to produce a combustion reaction, and the resulting explosion spreads the material into a superheated state. The metal salts in the explosive mixture are “excited” and emit light. In an explanatory article The chemistry behind fireworksUniversity of Pennsylvania inorganic chemist Eric Schelter says the interaction between firecracker fuel and oxidant releases energy. The metals in the mixture, which have a varying arrangement of electrons in shells outside their nucleus, produce different wavelengths of light in this reaction, generating spectacular colors. Barium compounds, for example, produce green light and strontium and lithium salts, red. But as numerous studies show, the burning of firecrackers is an unusual and advanced source of pollution, consisting of particles and gases. A study in Milan, Italy, quantified the increase in the levels of several elements in the air in one hour as 120 times for strontium, 22 times for magnesium, 12 times for barium, 11 times for potassium and six times for copper. The Central Pollution Control Board conducted a study in Delhi in 2016 and found that the levels of aluminum, barium, potassium, sulfur, iron and strontium rose sharply on the night of Deepavali from low to extremely students. For example, barium went from 0.268 micrograms per cubic meter to 95.954 mcg / m3. Similar episodic peaks were recorded in China and the UK. The pollution caused by firecrackers affects the health of people and animals and worsens the already poor quality of the ambient air in Indian cities. This has given rise to litigation calling for a total ban on firecrackers and for court orders to restrict the type of chemicals used as well as their volume. Many crackers also violate legal sound limits.

Can green crackers make a difference?

The central government said that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, through its National Research Institute for Environmental Engineering (CSIR-NEERI), Nagpur, released firecrackers that “reduced light emissions and sound “and 30% less particles using potassium nitrate. as an oxidizer. These crackers are named Safe Water Releaser, which minimizes the use of potassium nitrate and sulfur, but matches the loudness of conventional crackers, Safe Minimal Aluminum, where aluminum usage is low, and Safe Thermite Crackers at low in sulfur and potassium nitrate. These crackers must be identified using unique QR codes to guide consumers. The Supreme Court had also previously ordered that the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization only certify the composition of fireworks after making sure they were not made from banned chemicals.

What is the state of the industry?

The petitioners argue that out of about 2,000 manufacturers, only 120 had the ability and inclination to work with the court to green the crackers; respondents, who are part of an industry that seeks light regulation because it provides jobs for so many, must now present their case. Obviously, the new cracker formulations haven’t had a lot of takers. Firecrackers are not labeled with information about the person responsible for legal compliance, as ordered by the court. At the recent hearing, Supreme Court Justices MR Shah and AS Bopanna took note of the CBI report and noted that there had been a “flagrant violation” of previous orders. He took note of the large volume of crackers burnt almost every day and felt inclined to lay down the blame. “If the responsibility is placed on the police commissioner, then only that can happen,” he noted.

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