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Barium and the cracker ban affected Sivakasi traders, causing a 40% decline in production

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In the midst of uncertainty caused by a nationwide ban on fireworks in many states, Sivakasi, the centre of Indian cracker manufacture, is getting ready for the forthcoming Diwali season in Tamil Nadu’s Virudhunagar.

Only a few years ago, Sivakasi was said to have a business of about Rs 6,000 crore. However, things have altered with the Supreme Court’s order banning barium and green crackers.

The price of compounds that can replace barium has skyrocketed while output has decreased by 40%. According to G Abiruban, proprietor of Ayyan fireworks, crackers containing strontium nitrate as one of their components are hygroscopic (absorb moisture) and they cannot be produced for the following three days if it rains. Further, strontium nitrate is not easily available.

Potassium nitrate and strontium nitrate have been recommended as an alternative by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), which developed substitutes for barium in crackers in response to a Supreme Court order to reduce pollution. A non-disclosure agreement with NEERI was required before receiving the recipe for making green crackers, which was only distributed to about 1,000 companies.

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