Authorities in Beijing have appealed to officials not to burst firecrackers and to discourage relatives from doing so while celebrating the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival in an attempt to curb the heavy and acrid smog that descends on the city following the festivities.
Celebrations marking the first day of the Spring Festival and marking Diwali in India have two things in common – firecrackers and pollution. The Chinese have been bursting firecrackers during the Spring Festival for centuries, believing they drive away evil. The resulting heavy pollution was an accepted part of the celebrations in Beijing for years.
The local government has been trying to clear the air and keep the city of around 21 million smog-free after the celebrations. In a statement, the government said city officials must “take the lead” in not setting off fireworks or crackers.
“Have firm environmental protection consciousness and a sense of responsibility,” the statement said. “Proactively guide family members and friends not to let off or to limit the letting off of fireworks and firecrackers, improve air quality together and get into the action of ensuring blue skies for the capital.”
State media reported earlier that local authorities had limited firework sales in Beijing, approving 511 fireworks stalls this year, compared to 719 in 2016. State-run China Daily said no stalls were approved in central Beijing.
With fewer fireworks during the Spring Festival holiday last year, Beijing's PM2.5 density went down 16% as compared to that of earlier years.
Other parts of China have been trying to crack down on fireworks, but with mixed results.
Central Henan province had to lift a ban on fireworks after people said the ban was against Chinese traditions.
“Officials with Henan Provincial Environmental Protection Department said the government moved to lift the ban as it was decided that it would conflict with Chinese traditions,” official Xinhua news agency reported.
“A survey initiated by sina.com showed that 25% of respondents supported the ban, 47% objected it while 26.4% thought it would be too difficult to implement such a strict ban,” it said.
The report said that though industrial emission, coal-fired boilers, automobiles and burning of biofuels are the main causes of smog in northern China, “intensive periods of fireworks can cause pollutant density to shoot up in a short time”.