SC order on firecrackers could make manufacturers go bankrupt, create bad debt worth more than Rs 2,000cr, says industry body

The firecrackers manufacturing industry claims that Supreme Court judgment banning use of barium in manufacturing of firecrackers will not only make bursting of firecrackers during festivals impracticable, it could also make the industry go bankrupt incurring bad debt worth more than Rs 2,000 crore.

"Barium is used in most of the firecrackers manufactured worldwide and it is an indispensable chemical in manufacturing of firecrackers. We do not have its substitute. If it is banned most of the firecrackers we have already manufactured for Diwali would eventually be banned,” said K Mariappan, general secretary, Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers’ Association (TANFAMA) .

File image of workers making firecrackers at a factory. Reuters

File image of workers making firecrackers at a factory. Reuters

Mariappan claims that if this order is followed than lakhs of people involved with the firecracker manufacturing would go bankrupt and would create more than Rs 2,000 crores of bad debt.

“Many of the units have loans from national banks. But if our business is stopped, we will not be able to pay our dues,” he said. TANFAMA is a body that represents 1,070 firecracker manufacturing units at Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu. These units cater to 90 percent of the demand of firecrackers in India.

The Supreme Court order categorically says, "Barium salts in fireworks is also hereby banned".

“How can one implement this order without shutting down the firecrackers manufacturing industry itself,” he asked.

Mahender Pandey, a retired scientist of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) explained the use of the chemical in firecrackers, “Barium is an important constituent of firecrackers as it helps cause explosion and adds colour during the time of bursting the crackers.”

“The green color which is seen while bursting of crackers is caused by barium,” he added.

Pandey also said that Barium Nitrate is mixed with zinc and aluminium powder to enable the cracker to cause explosion effect. "Banning barium may result to prohibition of most of the firecrackers used in India during Diwali,” he anticipated.

“Though many industries use barium in their products, it is the firecrackers industry in which it is used in larger quantities,” he explained.

Mariappan said that the Supreme Court order is impracticable also because it bans many other chemicals which are not used by the firecrackers manufacturing industry in India. The Supreme Court order also bans use of chemicals such as Lithium, Arsenic, Antimony, Lead, and Mercury.

“We are not using these chemicals anyway and hence it was not necessary to ban them,” he said.

"Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation (PESO) will ensure fireworks with permitted chemicals only to be purchased, possessed, sold, and used during Diwali and all other religious festivals, of any religion whatsoever, and other occasions like marriages, etc. It shall test and check for the presence of banned chemicals like Lithium, Arsenic, Antimony, Lead, Mercury,” the order said.

Mariappan added that the court should have also provided the fireworks industry an alternative to Barium, since it is an essential constituent of most of the firecrackers.

“We expected that the Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation or the authorities would come up with an alternative during the court case, which clearly did not happen,” he added.

The Supreme Court’s decision to ban barium was based on suggestions made by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), PESO, and CPCB with regards to concrete solutions and short-term measures that can be adopted to tackle the pollution problem which occurs due to firecrackers during Diwali.

"Barium salts emit poisonous gas causing respiratory problem in short-term exposure too, and may have other health complications in long-term exposure. Therefore, as immediate measure, banning of Barium salts in fireworks may be considered,” the order said.

Significantly, the order also cited a study where it was found that there was evidence of increased values of barium and strontium in urine samples of many subjects who were exposed to firecrackers.

"These are some of the metals used in firecracker manufacturing. Increased levels in urine do reflect a probability of exposure. However, all other elements are not increased to substantiate the effect of bursting of firecrackers. It is also possible that the individuals were exposed due to bursting of firecrackers directly or indirectly in their locality,” the order said.

 

Significantly, Mariappan also said that the Supreme Court also ordered use of green and low emission crackers, but the two varieties are not well-defined under the environment laws.

“We are getting ready to file a petition in the Supreme Court appealing to review the order,” he said.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court imposed restricted use of firecrackers in India. Though it refused to impose a complete ban on firecrackers, but allowed only low emission and green firecrackers.


Updated Date: Oct 25, 2018 11:40 AM

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