Amritsar : The Golden Temple, the holiest Sikh shrine, will see fewer fireworks this Diwali — out of concern for the environment.
Environment activists and the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) had urged the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to find alternatives to the traditional fireworks display.
In a letter to the SGPC president, PPCB chairman Kahan Singh Pannu sought help in controlling pollution in and around the shrine around Diwali.
Pannu, who earlier as Amritsar’s deputy commissioner laid great emphasis on cleanliness, pointed out that pollution from the fireworks could damage heritage buildings of the shrine complex.
“It is the duty of (PPCB) to point out the pollution levels. We have asked SGPC to find some alternative way of celebrations,” Pannu said.
However, the SGPC plans to go ahead with the fireworks display this Diwali also, albeit with some caution.
“We will only display fireworks which go high up in the air. We are concerned about the pollution at the ground level,” a SGPC official said.
But the authorities have decided to cut the fireworks display from 30 to 20 minutes.
SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar says the fireworks cannot be halted.
“Diwali is celebrated all over the country. Fireworks cause pollution everywhere. Even if we stop, there will be enough pollution around the Golden Temple from fireworks in the area. We can’t even think of stopping the fireworks as it is linked to our (Sikh) tradition,” he said.
It was on a Diwali day in October 1619 when the sixth Sikh guru, Hargobind Singh, came back after being freed by the Mughal empire from Gwalior prison along with 52 kings.
This is known as ‘Bandi Chhod Diwas’ (prisoners release day) in Sikh history.
The fireworks display was first carried out to celebrate the arrival of the guru here. Since then, the display is done every Diwali.
PPCB officials, who have monitored pollution levels around the shrine in recent years, say the respirable suspended particle matter (RSPM) around the Golden Temple goes up beyond 500 macro-grams on Diwali night against the pollution norm of under 100 macro-grams.
Makkar said: “The buildings of the complex will not be affected as no fireworks will be done at the ground level. We understand the pollution concerns. We are trying to find an alternative to this. The display will continue till we have a viable alternative.”
The Harmandar Sahib, as the Golden Temple is known in Punjabi, was completed in 1604. It is visited by millions of Sikhs and others from all over the world every year.
And this Diwali, the length of the lighting on the occasion of Diwali will be nearly 33 km long.