Kolkata, May 26 (PTI) Environmentalists are sceptical about the West Bengal government’s plans to put an end to illegal firecracker units by locating all factories dealing with sparklers in clusters where they can be regulated and forced to follow green norms.
Similar endeavours had been initiated by the state earlier but they remained only on paper, the environmentalists claimed.
According to a decision taken at a Cabinet meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday, the clusters will be set up in areas that have been identified as hubs of illegal firework manufacturing.
Noted environmentalist Subhas Dutta told PTI the move to set up clusters was a “stunt devised by politicians” before elections which will not yield any result.
Dutta, an environment crusader, said earlier too there had been talks of setting up fireworks clusters during the Left Front rule and recent years but nothing materialised.
“Instead of making such an announcement, the state should address the core issue of livelihood opportunities for those involved in this business.
“It is a fact that the demands for firecrackers have risen in West Bengal in recent years and to meet the burgeoning demand, many illegal units are coming up. So the twin issue of meeting the demand for fireworks and bringing the sector under proper safety cover must be addressed,” Dutta said.
Added environmentalist Somendra Mohan Ghosh, the planning for development of clusters for fireworks’ factories had started in 2012 and a detailed project report (DPR) was ready in 2018.
However as Covid pandemic came up, the plan could not be implemented.
The net worth of the firecracker business, which is a cottage industry in the state, is Rs 6,000 crore and 4 lakh people are employed in the sector, according to sources in the fireworks makers association.
A senior environment official said, West Bengal Pollution Control Board, Environment department in coordination with Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) held workshops with the association of fireworks makers in South 24 Parganas district, like ‘Pradesh Atasbaji Byabasayee Samity’ (PABS), since October 2022 on producing green fireworks conforming to safety guidelines, where the issue of setting up of clusters came up.
While there were talks for setting up fireworks clusters even in the 2012-18 period, it did not take off, the official said.
The state government had firmed up the plan to set up a cluster as soon as possible after Calcutta High Court ordered last year that only green fireworks bearing QR codes can be sold, another government official pointed out.
However, ‘Sara Bangla Atash Bazi Unnayan Samity’ (All-Bengal fireworks development society) chairman Babla Roy said the process of setting up the clusters has already started in fireworks hubs at South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas .
PABS secretary Sukhdeb Naskar said “Work on such clusters has already started in Maheshtala area, away from congested localities, in South 24 Parganas district from April, and it is expected to be functional before Durga Puja-Kali puja festivals.
At least 17 people recently died in three incidents of blasts and a devastating fire at a godown in the state.
The explosion at Egra in Purba Medinipur on May 16 claimed 12 lives, including that of the prime accused, while three members of a family succumbed in Budge Budge in South 24 Parganas on Monday. There was no casualty in another blast at Dubrajpur in Birbhum district the same day. The fire at a carbide godown in Malda district on Tuesday killed two persons.
“The explosions at Egra, Budge Budge and elsewhere were due to non-adherence of standard safety guidelines by the fireworks makers who had stocked their material and gunpowder at home illegally,” Naskar said.
The state government held a meeting with firecracker manufacturers on Tuesday during which it was decided that various types of clusters will be set up for making and storing firecrackers legally.
Babla Roy, who was present at the meeting, said the administration will help them build sheds and godowns on government or private land. The clusters will be built in open spaces at least 300 metres away from congested areas, and experts will hold workshops on how to manufacture green firecrackers, he said.
In West Bengal, firecrackers are made in all districts except Darjeeling .
They are mostly concentrated in Champahati, Haral, Baruipur, Mahestala, Nungi, Budge Budge, Mahestala, Satgachhia in South 24 Parganas, Barasat, Narayanpur, Nilganj, Barrackpore, Naihati in North 24-Parganas, Gangnapur, Kalyani in Nadia, Pingale, Egra, Sabong in Purba Medinipur, Dubrajpur, Narajol, Debra in Paschim Medinipur, and Belur, Uluberia, Bagnan of Howrah. PTI SUS MM MM
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