Diwalis becoming quieter

DiwalI, the festival of lights, is one of the most popular festivals in India’s financial and commercial capital. Residents celebrate Diwali for almost a week, decorating their homes with lights, distributing sweets to relatives and friends, and bursting fire-crackers.


Nithin Belle

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Published: Sun 25 Nov 2012, 11:32 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 12:51 PM

But excessive celebrations during the festival also cause untold misery for many. Pollution levels in Mumbai soar during the Diwali holidays, as enthusiasts burst crackers, whose toxic fumes choke the atmosphere, aggravating conditions among asthmatic patients and the aged.

A recent survey by the Awaaz Foundation, an NGO, revealed the presence of heavy metals — including iron, manganese, chromium, vanadium, titanium, aluminum, copper, cobalt, zinc, zirconium, bismuth, selenium, nickel and tungsten — in dozens of firecrackers.

Fortunately, there is anecdotal and even empirical evidence to indicate that Diwali celebrations are becoming saner in Mumbai and even in other cities of late. Constant awareness campaigns, by NGOs and activists, the media, schools and colleges, even the government and strict orders of the court are having their impact, leading to quieter Diwalis. In the past, it was not unusual for some apparently insane residents to burst firecrackers on roads at 2 or 4 in the morning, disturbing entire neighbourhoods. Post-midnight celebrations, in which loud firecrackers were burst with gay abandon, were also a painful feature of Diwalis in Mumbai in the past.

However, the police are now aware about the need to curb such over-enthusiastic celebrations of the festival and take action when they get complaints. Interestingly, in many homes it is the young school- or college-going kids who advise their parents not to waste money on firecrackers, but to sensibly celebrate the festival.

In Mumbai, celebrating Diwali noisily had become the norm for not just the rich, but even for the middle-classes and the poor. But there is a gradual decrease in noise levels during the festival across the city — from the high-rises in Cuffe Parade and Malabar Hill, to the residential colonies of Chembur and Malad to the slums of Dharavi and Mankhurd.

Sumaira Abdulali of the Awaaz Foundation, who meticulously goes about monitoring noise levels in different parts of the city along with a dedicated band of activists, says that this is the third year in a row that Diwali has been relatively quiet in Mumbai.

“Serial bombs and ‘rassi’ bomb use was minimal and scattered. Firecracker use on roads was restricted to the western part of the city, while the eastern part was noisier (although still comparatively more silent than previous years).”

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