India’s fireworks extravaganza fizzles out
Efforts to curb air pollution in major cities hit the pyrotechnics epicenter of Sivakasi during Diwali
Big Bang Theory
A woman is silhouetted as firecrackers are lit during Diwali celebrations or the Festival of Lights.
Photo: AFP / Arun Sankar
With thousands of workers painstakingly handmaking vast volumes of firecrackers, Sivakasi in southern India is usually at full tilt before Diwali. But due to efforts to curb air pollution, the pyrotechnics epicenter fizzled out.
In addition to gifts, elaborate feasts and family get-togethers, the Hindu mega-festival of lights, which took place last weekend, has in recent years also meant setting off firecrackers – millions of them.
Their smoke combines with other emissions to turn the air of India’s cities – among the world’s most polluted – into a deadly, sickly yellow cocktail that one study says kills a million Indians prematurely every year.
This year’s confusion surrounded the regulations, but signs in Sivakasi district, which in past years supplied up to 95% of India’s firecrackers with revenues of around US$800 million, suggested the 2019 blowout was quieter.
“Usually after Diwali, the people come to us and place orders for the next Diwali and even give some advance payment,” D Mathan, the director of Lima Fireworks, one of around 1,000 manufacturers in Sivakasi, said.
“It didn’t happen this time around,” he pointed out, adding that production at his company had plunged almost 60%.
G Karuppasamy, a firecracker shopkeeper and wholesaler, confirmed that sales had slumped almost 50% as orders from around India dried up.
“Authorities talk about pollution but we don’t pollute much compared to others. And one day doesn’t make a difference for the rest of the year,” he said.