Diwali, Crackers and Pollution– Truth uncovered! (Part V): How other nations handle fireworks

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 Diwali in Dubai (Image: Twitter/@cgidubai)

Having had a detailed look at the handling of fireworks in India in parts 1 to 4, let us now take a look at how other nations handle fireworks and get a fresh perspective of our own actions.

If there is so much hungama with respect to fireworks in India, then surely there might be similar brouhaha in other nations too – or so, I assumed. Reality,it turns out – is quite different. Far from banning fireworks, nations seem to be celebrating and making special exemptions for fireworks.
Take the case of England, for instance. Instead of banning fireworks, England gives special exemptions for various festivals, including Diwali, to enable people to burst fireworks! See this screenshot from website of Metropolitan Police of London.
Does it not seem ironical thata country like England,which has no specific cultural or civilisationalaffinity with Diwali, makes special exemptions for bursting crackers on Diwali anda country like India, which has deep associations with Diwali, goes all out to completely stop the use of fireworks on Diwali?Do note that England is not the exception in the world but the rule. Sadly, India with its propensity for ban –turns out to be the exception.

Fireworks, in some form or the other, in public display or in private use, are a part & parcel of celebrations across the globe. While they are surely regulated to varying degrees, more for safety considerations than for environmental considerations, there is hardly a nation that has completely banned fireworks.

ü In Montreal, Canada[1] and Monte Carlo in Monacoamong others – huge competitions are organised for fireworks.
ü Manilla in Philippines[2] - Organises an annual World Pyro Olympics event!
ü Japan – During Hanabi Festival, crackers are burst daily for almost a month, every year.
ü France–The eve of Bastille day (14th July) is marked with a huge display of fireworks to celebrate the French Revolution and the Storming of Bastille.
ü New year, Halloween and National Daysin a large number of countries, Hungary, Malta, South Korea, Switzerland, Australia etc. are incomplete without fireworks.
The above examples notwithstanding, let us look at the specific case of United States in some detail, as the US is known to have the most stringent laws for environmental protection, among the major countries of the world[3].
If crackers are as harmful & dangerous for the environment as they are made out to be in India, then I hope, it would be safe to assume that they would surely be banned in the United States – after all, US is the country which has the most stringent environmental standards in the world. Reality again turns out to be different. Quite to the contrary, United States turns out to be the biggest consumer of fireworks in the entire world! They burst crackers worth around Rs. 10,000 crores[4] every year – which is more than five times the value of crackers burst in India (Rs. 1800 crores)[5].
Why this incongruency? What do you think is the reason for US and other countries like UK, France, Switzerland, Japanetc - all of which have much higher standards of environmental protection than India - have not banned fireworks?
? Do these countries not care for their environment? Or 
? Are they incapable of understanding the immense, ‘catastrophic’ threat posed by fireworks to their environment? or
? Is it just that the ban in India on fireworks, has nothing to do with environment at all – and it is something else that is driving this obsessive overdrive against fireworks?
The answer, perhaps, is best given by a pollution monitoring official in the US, who is reported to have said “It’s (July 4th) just 1 day out of 365 days in a year! Why sweat so much for it?”
How I wish, such better sense and logic prevailed in our country too.
Nonetheless, the last one or two points before we end this series. Readers may please note that this five-part series is not a compendium of all arguments against the ban on fireworks but just a collection of the most critical ones. There are many more important aspects that have been left out of the discussion for the sake of brevity and respect for the institutions. Shall close by giving aninstance of just one such aspect hitherto untouched – “Green Crackers.” This will, perhaps, also give a good insight into how things function in our country, India.
The Courts have banned the manufacture and sale of all crackers other than “Green Crackers” in the country since October 2018. Interesting aspect to note, however,is that there were absolutely no “Green Crackers” being manufactured in the Country then. “Green Crackers” were till then, only at the conception stage in different labs of the government. Even today, around two years after that judgment, no one is quite sure how many, if any, green crackers are available in the country!
Yet, crackers worth thousands of crores have been made, sold, bought and burst in the country in the past two years, even while the ban has been in force. Almost an equivalent number of crackers will, in all likelihood, be burst again in 2020 - or,may be, a little less due to Corona. But how many, if any,of these will be green -is anyone’s guess. The truth is known and understood by all - from the manufacturer, to the seller, to the buyer, to the government, to the police, to the media and to the Hon’ble Courts also! But who is to speak the truth of the Emperor’s old clothes? Surely, not this author.Not for now, at least.
Hope that the author succeeded in giving a fair and objective review of the case.Also hope that the readers are in a much better position now than before, to reach a more informed conclusion of their own with respect to crackers.
Ending this series with wishes of a very Happy & Green Diwali - lit up with all the ‘Green’ Crackers!