Pills for Bengal cracker industry survival: Invest in R&D, shift to green products
Times of India, 04 December 2020
Kolkata: If the fireworks industry in Bengal has to survive, it needs to invest in research and development. It must shift from age-old methods of making crude fireworks to making new-age, sophisticated green fireworks, a key functionary of the association for fireworks development in the state said after the National Green Tribunal’s latest order extended the ban on sale and use of all kinds of firecrackers in and around polluting cities like Kolkata and Howrah.
Speaking to TOI, Sara Bangla Atosbaji Unnayan Samity president Babla Roy said the NGT’s decision to extend the embargo on crackers from November-end till the end of the Covid pandemic had slammed shut any chance of a quick revival. “The industry has been facing hurdles in Bengal for 25 years now, battling restrictions to somehow survive. But Covid and the complete ban that was announced this festive season has left the industry battered and bruised. There is a realization that we cannot continue like this. If the industry is to survive, it has to turn over a new leaf. We have to become like Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu where constant R&D has led to rapid strides in development of green crackers that can survive this onslaught from green activists,” said Roy, adding that each unit has to set up a laboratory to design, make and test green firecrackers.
Only 15% of crackers manufactured in Bengal are currently low-emission ones that can claim to be green as they don’t contain banned chemicals, such as lithium, arsenic, barium and lead. They are also supposed to release water vapour to smother dust particles, thereby keeping particulate matter pollution in check. According to estimates, the industry will require at least 10 years to make the transition.
Work on the two fireworks clusters announced by the government has been slow with some civil work completed after soil tests at Champahati while work is yet to begin on the plot near Maheshtala. While the thrust was on safety and security of workers in the new clusters, the association now plans to add R&D in a big way.
Burrabazar Fireworks Dealers’ Association joint secretary Shantanu Dutta said Bengal will be impacted the most by the NGT order as the fireworks manufactured here don’t have the long shelf-life that those manufactured in Sivakasi do. “Of the 1.2 crore workers in the industry, Bengal accounts for 31 lakh. Those who manufacture firecrackers will be hit the hardest,” he said.