Every autumn, as India celebrates Diwali, the festival of lights, it spells danger for neighbouring Nepal where smuggled fireworks from Indian cities pose a severe fire hazard.The Nepal Police headquarters said searches have been intensified at Thankot, the major entry point to Kathmandu valley, and key check posts on the India-Nepal border in the Terai plains in the south to confiscate crackers and other powerful fireworks that are smuggled every year around this time.
Fireworks are banned in Nepal, especially in Kathmandu valley, where several world heritage sites, temples and monasteries are located.
The scarcity of water, the narrow bylanes and the mushrooming of buildings without any open space have contributed to make Kathmandu and its neighbouring Lalitpur and Bhaktapur cities potential death traps where a single stray flame can trigger a conflagration.
The ban was strengthened during the 10-year Maoist insurgency for fear that the explosives could be used by the Communist guerrillas.
Despite the ban, in the recent years, the authorities are alarmed by the growing use of fireworks during Diwali in Nepal.
On Friday, police said they had confiscated 350 kg of firecrackers from three buses that had reached Thankot from Sarlahi and Dhanusha districts in the Terai.
On the same day, two cartons of fireworks were also seized from a fourth bus coming from Birgunj.
Since last week, police have seized over 1,300 kg of such explosives
Selling firecrackers is a punishable offence and last year, a trader caught by police was charged with violating the Explosives Act.
Earlier this week, a group of Indian pilgrims who had come to worship at the Pashupatinath temple were in temporary trouble as police found three sacks of fireworks hidden under vegetables and stashed on the roof of their bus.
The phenomenon has also triggered public discussions on the potential hazard.
On Friday, Kantipur FM, Nepal’s most popular radio station, urged listeners during a chat show not to flout the law and put theirs as well as others’ lives in jeopardy.
Nepal celebrates its own form of Diwali, the indigenous Tihar festival, differently.
While lamps are lit at temples, devotees worship the cow and the dog and traditionally, there are no fireworks.