Ban them! More Harm than Charm — Flaming Litter from the Sky
Posted on January 31st, 2018

Champa Fernando Secretary, KACPAW (Kandy Association for Community Protection through Animal Welfare)

Increasingly we see in Sri Lanka celebratory events that send up thousands of sky lanterns, which MUST fall down back to the earth, some burning, some burnt out, endangering human and animals life and causing air travel and fire hazards and power failures. They cause more harm than charm.

Sky lanterns offer a brief blaze of glory. These lanterns, literally unattended fire balls, are taken miles before they fall back onto land or seas, causing long term hazards to man, animal and the environment.  Sending these fire balls into the sky is nothing but an irresponsible act of some selfish human beings.

Harms and Hazards

Misleadingly called ‘biodegradable” by the manufacturers and termed earth friendly” these lanterns are far from that. These paper lanterns have a thin metal wire and a bamboo frame.  According to the manufacturers the wire takes 9 months to degenerate. Apparently it takes years, unless it does not get chopped up into tiny needle-like pieces and gets mixed with hay and silage consumed by livestock who die a slow and excruciatingly painful death from internal bleeding and injuries, including puncturing of the oesophagus etc.

Pets, birds, fish as well as many land animals, including wild animals get entangled in the wire and die a slow death, unless they are rescued. Children have got burnt, some fatally, while wild fires as well as fires to homes, institutions, infernos on garbage piles have been caused. They have also caused power failures. They are also mistaken for distress signals.

A Potential Act of Arson?

Technically and in reality sky lanterns are unattended balls of fire that are being released. People who set fire to buildings and land and those who cause wild fires are charged with arson. Why not this??

So many accidents from sky lanterns around the world have made a lot of countries BAN the use of sky lanterns. Some countries ban them before popular events and many other countries are considering banning the use of them. Calls to ban them come from farmers, average civic-minded citizens, Fire Departments, Police, Local Councils, Power Plants, livestock industry, animal welfarists, environmentalists, navy, etc.


It is amazing that the a particular District’s President Scouts and President Guides Association organized one of these fire-hazard events in December and went ahead with it despite some of us trying to enlighten them and asking them to desist from sending thousands of unattended fires up into the sky. Sending sky lanterns are against the fundamental scouting safety principles related to fire management where fires are to be attended to at all times!!

And were the organizers and the scouts and guides there to clean up the hazardous mess and the environmental pollution they caused? Should not they be charged with littering, and more so with littering hazardous material?

Ban their Use in Sri Lanka

Now a Hotel in Mount Lavinia is organizing a sky lantern event to celebrate Valentines’ Day! Those who love animals and the environment and love each other will not attend this event.  May be organizers of such events and the participators are not aware of the full impact of this activity. Hopefully, now they do.

Like most countries, we need to ban the use of sky lanterns in Sri Lanka.  

Over to you Mr. President, Prime Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers to bring in a ban on the use of sky lanterns in Sri Lanka.

Champa Fernando

Secretary, KACPAW (Kandy Association for Community Protection through Animal Welfare)

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