Green activism badly burns pre-Diwali cracker sales
Ban on import and sale of Chinese crackers has had little or no effect on domestically-made ones as traders across major cities report poor business owing to anti-cracker campaign run by schools, resident welfare associations and others, Assocham said on Friday.
It is not just Chinese crackers, but multiple factors like growing environmental awareness, rising cost of living, growing tendency to save hard-earned money, paucity of time and traffic congestions have dented the business over the years. This is what a majority of the 250 traders surveyed said. There is a sharp sales decline of about 20 per cent year-on-year from the past five years, which have also almost halved.
“Banning Chinese firecrackers was a welcome move which was aimed at strengthening the domestic industry. However, growing criticism of bursting crackers and the negative publicity along with rising pollution have eventually faded the growth of firecracker industry,” said D S Rawat, Assocham Secretary General, while releasing the findings. “About hundreds of units in Sivakasi have shut their shop owing to intense campaigns and growing sales of China-made crackers over the years.” Costlier raw materials and inflation have also held back people from buying crackers, a trend for the past few years now, noted the survey. However, many traders nurse hope that last-minute purchase could save the day for them.
The industry body interacted with wholesalers, retailers and traders spread across 10 cities of Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Bhopal, Chennai, Dehradun, Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Lucknow and Mumbai to gauge enthusiasm and demand for crackers together with the ban impact across India. Meanwhile, pollutant-loaded air continued to hang heavy in the national capital ahead of Diwali, prompting authorities to call for the festivities sans fireworks, which they said emit cancer-causing smoke. Nearly all the monitoring stations active in the city said the PM 2.5 and PM 10 (ultra fine pollutants) were several times above the safe limit of 60 and 100 micro grams per cubic metre, keeping the city air in “very poor” category.
For the second consecutive day, pollutants (PM 10) in Anand Vihar shot up nine times above the safe limit when checked in real-time around 12 PM as per the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC). Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) Punjabi Bagh, RK Puram stations had the Air Quality Index (AQI) in the severe category, which affects healthy people and seriously impacts those with existing diseases. System of Air Quality and weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), Pune said in its Diwali forecast that if the current weather conditions prevailed, share of PM 2.5 would increase by up to 20 per cent. According to SAFAR analysis, wind, which is already stagnant, is likely to turn easterly during the Diwali period. This coupled with falling temperature is likely to worsen the pollution level in the city.
“This scenario is likely to hold the locally generated firecrackers emissions within the NCT, slowing down dispersion, resulting in increased levels of PM 2.5 and PM 10 pollution unlike 2015 when winds swept away the larger share,” a report prepared by a team of SAFAR led by Gufran Beig said.
The highest levels of PM 10 and PM 2.5 are expected between 11 PM and 3 AM on the night of October 30 and 31. Air quality will be at its worst on October 31 and start to improve from November 1, the agency said. Centre for Science and Environment’s (CSE) Anumita Roychowdhury said the carcinogenic element in the smoke emitted by firecrackers may cause diseases ranging from cancer to imbalance of hormones.