Deepawali, the festival of lights is just round the corner. It ritualistically begins with cleansing. Every household gets busy with this annual cleaning frenzy to rid abodes of months of dust, cobwebs, dirt, grime and filth that go nearly unnoticed, until now. Hidden corners, high ceilings, ceiling fans, shut cupboards, lofts, store rooms, and bathrooms are all cleaned up vigorously. The deep-cleaning spree is to turn our homes come out shining and new!
But while we are so enthusiastic about welcoming the festive season with a home that is spruced up and squeaky clean, should we also not be concerned about keeping our surroundings pollution free too? Should we not pause and question as to why we make use of fire-crackers that will be polluting not only the environment but also our bodies. Should our bodies not need more attention to be kept clean along with our households?
Fire-crackers are synonymous with Diwali celebrations that environmentalists for years have been attempting to warn off. Intelligent people certainly welcome the Supreme Court decision prohibiting sale of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR. Why don’t other cities follow suit and look forward to a relatively cleaner Diwali. Don’t we all want relief from the annual rise in air pollution levels during Diwali? It is true that in India pollution levels go up much higher than national standards just as soon as the winters begin. It is for this reason alone that there should be comprehensive control on air pollution all over the country.
Pollution after Diwali fireworks affects all parts of the body. Your skin, eyes, nose, heart and even lungs may get affected. Chronic diseases like asthma and other lung related allergies get seriously aggravated after Diwali pollution. Warns Dr. Suchika Gupta, co-founder and Managing Director of HERD Foundation: “There is little doubt that the numbers of patients suffering from respiratory diseases spikes up tremendously after Diwali, not to speak of fire related accidents that get victims rushed to hospitals. It is therefore best to light lamps and celebrate peacefully rather that invite hazardous substances in our bodies and our environment”.
Aside from risk of skin burns or similar suffering that may follow burning firecrackers, the other hazard comes from smog that soon engulfs surrounding areas. It makes breathing difficult. Yet house after house goes berserk lighting up all kinds of fire crackers that aside from profusely littering the streets also affects air quality. Smog filled up with chemicals from fireworks fills up the environment and continues to hit residents particularly during early mornings and late evenings. The concentrations of ultra-fine PM2.5 reach as high as 1,000 ug/m3, nearly 17 times the safe limit of 60 ug/m3.
So even when Diwali is over, the smog continues to affect morning walkers, school-going children, and anyone else who comes in contact with this pollution-laden air. How then does it help anyone to first take part in such hazardous activity, and then get affected by the toxic fumes? Think especially of the damage that occurs to people suffering from chronic respiratory diseases or those having weak immunity?
Anyone experiencing breathlessness, coughing fits, chest tightness or watery eyes after Diwali can be sure that these are after effects of high levels of air pollution. Such people should not be going about outdoors early morning and late evening. Additionally they should invest in a quality face mask. It is true that prolonged exposure to concentrated metal particles may cause serious lung diseases.
India’s Central Pollution Control Board routinely monitors four air pollutants namely sulphur dioxide (SO2), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), suspended particulate matter (SPM) and respirable particulate matter (PM10). Bursting firecrackers during Diwali sends PM2.5 levels soaring. New Delhi, the capital city ranks notoriously high on unhealthy levels of particulate matter pollution. So while the recent judgment is a step in the right direction, other Indian cities ought to follow strict norms too. Unfortunately air quality levels are monitored by the government in only a handful of cities!
HERD Foundation suggests – let there be light this Diwali in your homes and also in your minds! Go for a fire-cracker free Diwali and do yourself, your neigbourhood, and your city a huge favour. We take this opportunity to wish everyone a peaceful and fun-filled Deepawali. May the festive season ahead be one that paves the way for better health, cleaner environment and breathable air.
Images – Courtesy Google