At a time when fireworks/crackers have been declared guilty of having murdered ‘clean’ air by an institution no less than the Supreme Court of India. It might come as a shocker to many to note that Science, is emphatic in its declaration that fireworks are “not guilty” of this crime. Science, in fact, has never accused fireworks of polluting the air in the first place!
One may wonder how, if science is so strongly on the side of fireworks, has the Supreme Court ruled against them. The author has analyzed this aspect too in great detail and the readers may refer to this writeup for a brief synopsis of the same. The present article, however, focuses only on science and the data furnished by various studies on the subject.
Presenting here, data from four different studies, conducted independently by four different institutions of great credibility and repute.
There is one study by IIT Kanpur on the subject, which is known and quoted by a lot of people. However, there are other equally comprehensive and impressive studies which are less known. Hence, in the interest of popularizing them and impressing upon the minds of the readers, the commonality of their findings with respect to the fireworks, we shall see the results of other studies first.
- “State of Air in Delhi NCR – Pollution and Solution” - A study by TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute, New Delhi).
Here is an infographic by TERI explaining the main reasons for the polluted air in Delhi:
Note from the above that:
- The study identifies the percentage contribution by each source, to the total Air Pollution in Delhi - and Fireworks don’t even find a mention in this list.
- Not that TERI did not study the contribution of fireworks but just that they found it too insignificant to include it in here.
- The percentage contribution of fireworks is included along with multiple other minor sources as “smaller contributions from varied sources” which is negligible!
The good part about these studies is that they not only identify the problem but also identify the solutions. The ways of mitigating Air Pollution in Delhi, as suggested by TERI, are listed in another infographic titled “Impact of interventions on Air Quality in Delhi” released by them. Same is given below.
You may note from the above that:
- TERI lists out several steps like - Electric buses, industrial regulations, paving streets, controlling agricultural residues etc. – to reduce pollution and also estimates that pollution can be reduced by a whopping 49% by taking the above listed steps.
- Reduction in or ban on Fireworks is not even mentioned in this action plan!
- Emission inventory for NCR Delhi by SAFAR (System for Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research) – which is setup by ministry of Earth Science, Government of India and Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology Pune.
Given below is an extract from this report giving details of percentage contribution by various sources:
You may note from the above that:
- The study covers both Summer and Winter, thus covering the Dassera & Diwali period.
- Captures the difference in percentage contribution of each source in each season
- Even this study has not identified Fireworks as a source of pollution!
- “What’s polluting Delhi’s Air?” – by urban emissions
A screenshot from the report published by it is given below:
As with the earlier two studies, this study also finds no contribution of fireworks in Delhi’s toxic air.
- Comprehensive study on Air Pollution and Green House Gases in Delhi – by IIT Kanpur
This is the study done by IIT Kanpur that has been quoted by several people. However, what has not been quoted in most places is that this is a study that has been sponsored by the Government of Delhi and the DPCC (Delhi Pollution Control Committee).
It was instituted precisely to identify the major sources of pollution and help the government formulate a plan to reduce the overall pollution levels. Hence the findings of this study are of great import.
Let’s look at the each of the sources of pollution identified by this study. Given below is the list of pollutants identified for PM 2.5 (Particulate Matter less than 2.5 Microns) and PM 10 (Particulate Matter less than 10 microns).
Here again, Fireworks have not been held guilty of polluting Delhi’s Air.
Let’s now look at the detailed, year-wise, action plan suggested by IIT to the Delhi Government to reduce the pollution levels in Delhi. Given below is an extract of the plan from page 282 of the report:
As can be seen, banning or regulating fireworks is not even mentioned as a part of this action plan drawn out by scientists and experts to reduce pollution in Delhi - just as the case was in the action plan suggested by TERI.
Thus, that makes it four different studies by four different institutions – each of which has reached the same conclusion that fireworks are not a cause of Air Pollution. Can any rational and objective person still claim that fireworks are a major cause of Air Pollution?
“What about the smoke emitted from fireworks then? Does it amount to nothing?” many might ask and rightly so. The following points may be noted in reply:
- Pollutants, as can be seen from reports above, are measured by the quantum of emissions or the no: of Kgs or MT (Metric Tons) per day, month, year etc.
- Thus, the smoke emitted by the fireworks or the PM (Particulate Matter) in the smoke, is also quantified in terms of no: of Kgs /MTs of PM produced and then divided by the no: of Kgs /MTs of pollutants produced by all other sources – to give the percentage contribution by fireworks.
- This percentage contribution by fireworks has been calculated and found to be close to zero by everyone who has scientifically studied the issue.
Thus, there can remain no doubt that fireworks have an almost negligible, if not completely negligible, role in polluting Delhi’s Air.
If people still like to persist with their perception and ignore facts, then there is very little that one can do about it. But if the Courts of the land also tend to go with perception instead of facts, then surely, it’s a great sign of worry for all.
P.S. It may be noted that the above is just a part of a detailed paper written by the author on the issue of fireworks, pollution and the related judgments. Those interested in more details and analysis of the same may download and read a copy of the paper. Link –
Image source: India TV News