The Bold Voice of J&K

This Diwali, let the plants breathe too

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Vivek Shukla 

If plants could speak, they would definitely beg cracker-lovers not to use crackers during Diwali. It is no secret that Diwali crackers play havoc with plants and gardens.
According to JPS Dabas, senior agricultural scientist of the Delhi-based Indian Institute of Agricultural Research, “After crackers burst in the air, they emit toxic gases in the atmosphere that are extremely damaging to the health of all living beings, including plants.”
Arguably, plants are living and need care during lighting crackers and fireworks. Plants feel suffocated and cry for help when Diwali crackers burst.
While the smoke from fireworks consists mainly of fine toxic dusts that can easily enter the lungs, it also badly damages all kinds of plants. Smoke from fireworks combustion may contain a mixture of sulfur-coal compounds, traces of heavy metals, and other toxic chemicals or gases. The combustion cloud can contain harmful fumes such as ozone, sulfur dioxide and nitric oxide.
What are the safeguards that one can take to protect the house garden? Dabas says the first and foremost measure one ought to take is to avoid cracker-bursting and also impress upon neighbours to do so. If you and your neighbours do not celebrate Diwali with crackers, it would go a long way in giving a clean and pollution-free atmosphere. Naturally, if crackers do not emit deadly gases, then your plants and garden remain cool and nice.
Thus, it goes without saying that both lighting and fireworks damage plants. And Diwali night is a death-knell for plants. They get scorched during such celebration. Since Diwali comes at the end of the peak growing season for most plants, leaf-burn can set the plant’s growth back by months. Plus, if you peg fireworks to a tree, it injures the inner bark, a living part of the tree. That’s where the nutrients and water move. Stop treating trees like lamp posts or an inanimate trellis. Fireworks performing aerial pyrotechnics can also singe insects, birds and arboreal animals such as squirrels.
Sadly, while we express concern that Diwali, as celebrated today, is not the easiest time for people with or without specific health challenges, we often ignore and overlook the suffering we inflict on other life forms.
For centuries, diyas (mud lamps) were the only lights set up on Diwali. These were also kinder to other living things. Now, the lighting ranges from candles to electric garlands of fairy lights strings of electric bulbs, and even harsh spotlights. Many of these are strung on, or near, trees and plants.
Then there’s the more palpable air pollution. During this festive season, plants take in a lot of air pollution at a terrible price. Few new leaves sprout and existing leaves get caked with pollution. Unlike dust, that just sits on the leaf, this sticks to it. It is also tougher to wash off.
Deepak Mehta, a Delhi-based Urban town planner, has been campaigning since the last many years. He has been saying that residents of apartments should burst crackers in flower pots instead of on the grass, as the deadly residue damages the grass as well as the soil. His efforts are yielding results, as apartment residents have been heading him. He advises people to put lots of water in the plants of their gardens on the day following Diwali, in order to remove the dust that settles down on the plants.
Meanwhile, it is sad that those gardens which could not be protected due to various factors, suffer from the onslaught of crackers. Plants damaged by crackers take a long time to recover. Unfortunately enough, due to a lack of understanding, not many people make efforts to protect their plants crackers from Diwali.
(The writer is a freelance journalist)

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