Diwali is known as the 'festival of lights'. Diyas (clay lamps) are lit to chase away the darkness of ignorance and welcome the bright light of enlightenment. However, in our zest to celebrate this festival, there is a tendency to go overboard. Carelessness during Diwali celebrations can have a detrimental effect on the environment and endanger your own safety. Here are some of the major offenders in these celebrations.
Firecrackers are traditionally perceived as being the highlight of Diwali celebrations. Simple sparklers have now given way to elaborate fireworks that can light up the entire sky above your home. Most people believe that greater the fireworks, better the celebrations. However, very few people stop to think just how harmful these crackers are for the environment.
To begin with, all available crackers contain a large amount of toxic substances. These affect people in different ways as follows;
- Copper: Causes irritation in the respiratory tract, which leads to respiratory ailments.
- Cadmium: Reduces the oxygen carrying capacity of blood, leading to anaemia. It also causes kidney damage.
- Lead: Lead in the body has a harmful effect on the nervous system.
- Magnesium: Magnesium fumes cause a condition known as metal fume fever. This is a fever accompanied by a metallic taste in the mouth.
- Zinc: Also causes metal fume fever. In addition, it also induces vomiting.
- Sodium: Sodium is a highly reactive element. It combines with moisture in the air and on the skin, causing burns.
These toxic substances are not just harmful to human beings, but to all living creatures. They tend to remain in the atmosphere for extended periods. So their harmful effects are experienced long after Diwali celebrations are ended.
Fireworks also produce a lot of smoke, when they are burnt. Apart from being a source of toxic fumes, the smoke also causes great discomfort. People suffering from asthma and other respiratory conditions have no other choice but to stay indoors during Diwali. They are unable to go outside for fear of any of the smoke getting into their lungs and triggering an attack.
Fireworks also bring with them a lot of noise. Diwali favourites like the 'Laxmi bomb' produce a sound of 100 decibels when they are burst. In comparison, any sound beyond 50 decibels is classified as being noise. The noise produced by crackers is extremely hazardous to health. Sudden noise can cause temporary hearing loss. Extended exposure could lead to permanent hearing loss. Crackers burst indiscriminately cause disturbances in sleep. This can be especially upsetting to people who require undisturbed rest like babies and elderly people. Noise also frightens children and household pets, causing them to experience anxiety.
Most fireworks are made by factories which employ children as labourers. These young children are forced to handle the toxic substances that go into these crackers. As a result, they contract diseases associated with these substances. Due to lack of medical aid, many of these children do not live beyond their teenage years.
Since Diwali is a festival of lights, people decorate their homes by lighting them up. This places a huge load on the power supply system. Electric lights are used to decorate entire homes, offices, and roads. Sometimes, these lights are even left on even during the day. This is a waste of energy. It is better to switch to the traditional oil lamps. Even though they consume oil, these lamps are usually used only for a short time.
Along with light, Diwali is also associated with wealth. People believe that this is an auspicious time to purchase goods. The newspapers are full of advertisements offering discounts, sales, and free gifts. Deluded by these claims, consumers tend to go out and buy items that they do not really need. These items like television sets, DVD players, etc. tend to lie unused and are then discarded. This results in wastage of precious natural resources that go into making these items. In addition, most of these items are non degradable. When they are discarded, they lie in landfills and garbage dumps, sometimes for years on end.
Celebrating Diwali does not mean completely giving up the things you love. However, it is time to go back to the traditional Diwali celebrations of the past. Not only will you be helping to save the environment but also you will understand better the true meaning of Diwali.
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- The Indiaparenting Team