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Diwali’s Nightmare:ENVIRONMENT ‘SMOKED’ OUT!, by Syed Ali Mujtaba,3 November 2010 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 3 November 2010

Diwali’s Nightmare


By Syed Ali Mujtaba


The entire country celebrated the festival of lights Diwali last week. There was much rejoicing as families bought new clothes, houses and shops were freshly painted, sweets and gifts exchanged among relatives, friends, clients and partners. Last but not least, India resounded to the sounds of firecrackers.


Importantly, the festival generates huge business for the apparel industry, manufacturers and retailers of household items, sweets, clothes, firecrackers, gifts et al.  According to one estimate, India spent over Rs 1000 crore this year. Of this Rs 500 crore were used on firecrackers alone.  Add to this Rs 3,200 spent on corporate gifts makes Diwali India’s most “expensive” festival. 


However, what does this grand celebration mean to environmentalists? Succinctly, bad news. If the will of conservators were to prevail, they would like to scale down celebrations to save the environment from Diwali’s ill-effects. The three major concerns of the ‘green brigade’ are high-energy consumption and air pollution through firecrackers as also excessive consumerism.


Today, they are busy campaigning for a ‘green’ Diwali to stop the deliberate assault on Mother Nature and at the same time, ensuring that the festival spirit is not compromised. Given that Diwali is a celebration of abundance and wealth. Many people believe that it is a good time to buy and spend money, even when they don't need things. Extravagant ‘sale and bargain’ hoardings and advertisements lure people and encourage them to splurge and purchase more and more. 


Have we realized the effect of such hyper-active consumerism on the environment? Particularly, as all items are made out of raw materials that come from nature. Be it plastic, metal, paper, cloths etc. Whereby these resources are non-renewable. A case in point. Fossil fuels and metal ores get depleted and will run out one day.  Thus, the depletion of non-renewable natural resources is one of the most significant impacts of consumerism.


Another effect of consumerism is the creation of solid-waste, which is non-biodegradable. Remember, this waste has to be buried into holes dug up in the ground, but this is hardly done. Instead, the waste is simply thrown out of homes and transported to 'landfills', without completely integrating into the soil. According to environmentalists, this is another huge assault on Mother Nature.


Therefore, it is essential to reduce the amount of things we consume. We need to inculcate the habit to re-use things we have in different forms until we have absolutely no use for them. We must also learn to recycle items that are no longer functional.  As also rethink the choices we make while buying and refuse things that we do not need at all.


The big questions: Can we control our desires? Stop the mad race of consumerism? Needless to say, it is all a matter of change of habits and adhering to the simple principles of environmental concerns. Our choice is limited. We need to put the breaks on environmental degradation now if we want to gift the space we live in to our posterity.


There is no gainsaying that high energy consumption is another fallout of Diwali. The festival of lights puts a considerably load on already overloaded electrical energy sources. The use of electric lights to adorn homes, business establishments, monuments and roads requires a colossal amount of electricity. In a power-starved country, can we afford such huge electrical consumption? Given that this mindless consumption has a huge impact on global warming and needs to be checked.


The only possible alternative to electric lights is to use traditional oil lamps for celebrating Diwali. True, the use of oil too has its environmental implications, but since the duration of such lamps is shorter, this could be considered as a possible alternative.


Undoubtedly, firecrackers considered the most thrilling element of Diwali celebrations cause the most harm to the environment. Hardly anyone realises the amount of pollution firecrackers cause to the environment’s prelim. Wherein, the toxic substances used in firecrackers release toxic gases that are harmful to not only human health but also of animals, birds, plants and trees.


This is not all. The high level of noise that firecrackers generate might cause immense suffering to the sick and ailing. Sudden exposure to loud noise could cause hearing loss, high blood pressure, heart attack and sleeping disturbances. True, crackers that make a noise of more than 125 decibels at four meters distance from the point of bursting are banned by the law, but hardly any one abides by the law.


Sadly, only a few realize that it is young children who primarily make the firecrackers and handle extremely toxic substances. Leading to many of these ‘child labourers’ getting sick and dying early. Worse, only a handful seems to be bothered about this matter of great concern. And those who are, their voices are drowned under the drumbeat of religious festivities.


Undoubtedly, these are issues of serious concern, and have to be given top priority and addressed. There is an urgent need to re-interpret the traditions and rituals of the country so that people become more sensitive to the environment.


Notwithstanding the fact that there is growing recognition of the ‘bad’ impacts of Diwali on the environment, the nation continues to go the whole hog in celebrating this festival. They seem to consciously become unconscious about the harm they are causing to the environment.




What next? The silver lining among the dark Diwali clouds is that several groups have sprung up with ecological sensitive initiatives centered around Diwali.  But they are in a minuscule minority. The day when all people get attached with such initiatives and celebrate the festival in an eco-friendly way, would come as a big relief to the environmentalists. ----- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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