What’s all this hue and cry over Diwali crackers. If people wish to celebrate the festival of lights with luminous and loud crackers so be it. The popular argument is that pollution levels shoot up and this leads to very high numbers of people falling sick. That is certainly a valid and well proven case which is why what the need of the hour is giving the masses an alternative. There are numerous examples or models which we can emulate especially from developed nations. One potential and very potent form is the community celebration. The way Americans have developed a centralized township celebration and fireworks display for their Independence Day or how Guy Fawkes day is celebrated in London.

Large number of people around the world gather in a central location to celebrate the new year welcoming with beautiful displays of amazing fireworks. When do we learn to replicate such models and encourage a coordinated celebration. The problems of numbers and people management in huge crowds need to be first tackled prior to deploying these models.

The noise and air pollution problem is much worse year-round and it’s not just a festival occurrence. There are vast number of regulations with sporadic compliance. We can always circumvent adherence when greed is introduced into the picture. What can otherwise explain the constant pollution in our rivers with dangerous levels of industrial waste / effluents. How do we explain the reduction in several species across land and seas with pollution being the number one killer. These don’t happen during festivals only!

There is such a big push towards infrastructure in the form of roads, ports, airports and industrial zones being created so that we can ‘Make in India’ and become a leader in self reliance and exports. All this development comes at an expensive price. How often have we seen roads being widened and the trees that used to earlier line up the road being calmly uprooted. The reclassifying of forest and mangrove lands to make way for industries ensures we have lesser green cover. Land erstwhile used for farming getting transformed into industrial belts. We can only hope there is a judicious and prudent oversight that ensure environmental pollution does not increase and green cover gets replanted

And why then, should we be surprised if we have sweltering hot summers with records high temperatures every year. We see more and more instances of unpredictable weather be it drought or flash floods or unseasonal rains causing havoc in people and farmers lives in particular. The holistic tackling of pollution does not work with just piecemeal approaches of banning crackers and cars. It works when we keep environment and green cover its due respect and importance. It works when policies don’t just say make in India but make ‘conserve in India’ an equally critical component of any new development.

Lastly there is no condoning the harmful effects of crackers. We do need to educate our nation and this has shown superlative results with children this year leading the campaign of not wanting to burst crackers. Let’s all make it our business to save the environment lest we are left with no environment worth living.

– Amit Shah