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Beijing to ban fireworks on heavily polluted days

Updated: 2013-12-13 20:43
By Zheng Xin (

Setting off fireworks will be banned during the coming Spring Festival whenever air pollution in the Chinese capital is serious, according to the city's fireworks administration office.

The ban will go into effect when the city government issues an orange or red warning on air pollution. When it does, all selling and setting off of fireworks will be forbidden until further notice.

The office said the policy is an attempt to help alleviate serious air pollution. It will also encourage the use of environmentally friendly fireworks this year. These produce little smoke and no sulfur emissions.

As part of the air pollution emergency plan, the city will issue a red alert when the air is "extremely polluted" for three straight days, and an orange alert when it is "extremely polluted" or "very polluted" for three days.

An air quality index between 301 and 500 is considered extreme, while the "very polluted" days are those indexed from 201 to 300, according to the city's environmental protection bureau.

Sales of fireworks this year will kick off on Jan 25 and wrap up on Feb 14, the office said.

Considering the declining sales of fireworks last year, along with a rising environmental awareness in the general public, major fireworks companies are not very optimistic about sales this year. As a result, they have reduced inventory and sales outlets for the upcoming holiday.

According to the fireworks office, the sales of three major fireworks companies - Panda Fireworks, Beijing Fireworks and Dodo Fireworks - declined 40 percent last year. They plan to stock 643,000 cartons of fireworks this year, or 200,000 fewer than last year.

During heavily polluted days, the office will suspend deliveries and sales, and will dispatch local police and volunteers to persuade residents to avoid setting off fireworks. Violators will face administrative penalties for public security, with punishments of up to 200 yuan ($33) and 15 days detention.

Wang Jinzhong, a 34-year-old bank clerk, said he was willing to give up fireworks for a fresh breath and found the policy "acceptable".

"It's always choking and noisy during the Spring Festival, especially on the eve," he said. "The point of the holiday is to have a family reunion, and a quiet and cozy one is not bad."

To help ease the pollution problem, the fireworks office said it has come up with environmentally friendly models this year. These produce zero sulfur and little smoke, which will further reduce pollutants during the holiday.

But there are other benefits to them as well. According to the local work-safety administration the environment-friendly fireworks not only give off less smoke but also don't produce massive paper scraps.

Such fireworks cost more because of different manufacturing techniques and filling materials. Partly as a result, have not been widely used in the past in Beijing.

To get people to use environmentally friendly bangers, the fireworks office has set low prices this year.

The three large distributors will each come up with inventories that are at least 10 percent environmentally friendly. If sales are good, the percentage will rise in the next year.

Yu Lianwei, an official with Beijing's public security bureau, said the environmentally friendly fireworks would greatly reduce hazards to human health as well as pollutants, because they produce no heavy metals or sulfur.

He was echoed by Wang Gengchen, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Atmospheric Physics.

But he added that despite the introduction of environmentally friendly fireworks, the burning process itself still poses threats to air quality.

"It's impossible to cut off all the pollutant emissions, even with the environmentally friendly fireworks," he said.

Still, as the number of fireworks in the marketplace has fallen, so has the number of people injured by fireworks.

Injuries in the Chinese capital decreased considerably during last year's Spring Festival, when a total of 313,000 cartons of fireworks were sold, a drop of 45 percent from the 564,000 cartons sold during the same period the previous year, according to government data.

Some 165 people reported fireworks injuries last year, a 22 percent decrease from the 2011. No deaths have been reported.

Officials say the capital's fireworks spree is partly to blame for serious smog last year, on days when the average density of PM 2.5 particles - the smallest and most dangerous - hit 300 micrograms per cubic meter. That was on Feb 24, as people celebrated the Lantern Festival, an end to the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations.