Fire­works sets off heated de­bate on pol­lu­tion

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By LI YANG in Shang­hai liyang@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Set­ting off fire­works, a tra­di­tion dur­ing the Chi­nese Lu­nar New Year which falls on Thurs­day, has stirred wide de­bate in the coun­try be­cause it wors­ens air pol­lu­tion.

On Lu­nar New Year’s Eve in 2013, Bei­jing saw a rapid in­crease of PM2.5, air­borne par­ti­cles smaller than 2.5 mi­crons in di­am­e­ter that can pen­e­trate lungs and harm health. The con­cen­tra­tion in­creased from 150 mi­cro­grams per cu­bic me­ter at mid­night to 347 mi­cro­grams per cu­bic me­ter in one hour be­cause of fire­works, ac­cord­ing to the city’s en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion bureau.

A re­cent sur­vey in Shang­hai or­ga­nized by lo­cal peo­ple’s po­lit­i­cal con­sul­ta­tive con­fer­ence, a po­lit­i­cal ad­viser for the city gov­ern­ment, sam­pled 800 res­i­dents, and showed only 29.3 per­cent peo­ple sup­port set­ting off fire­works, and the rest are against it.

Many pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal gov­ern­ments banned fire­works for Spring Fes­ti­val in the mid-1990s, de­spite fierce public op­po­si­tion. Some of the cities gave the green light to fire­works again in the late 1990s, set­ting up cer­tain re­gions for fire­works.

Air pol­lu­tion in China is caused by huge en­ergy con­sump­tion, mainly fos­sil fuel, and can­not be ad­dressed soon. The cen­tral gov­ern­ment es­ti­mates China’s en­ergy con­sump­tion will reach its peak in 2030.

To curb emis­sions from fac­to­ries and au­to­mo­biles, the gov­ern­ment closed many en­ergy-con­sum­ing en­ter­prises, and limited the use of pri­vate cars in large cities.

But air pol­lu­tion seems un­abated, and Chi­nese peo­ple seem in­creas­ingly numb to the harm caused by air pol­lu­tion to their health. A re­cent joint re­search by the Green­peace, a non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion, and Pek­ing Uni­ver­sity showed more than 250,000 peo­ple died pre­ma­turely be­cause of air pol­lu­tion in 31 ma­jor Chi­nese cities in 2013.

When Bei­jing and Shang­hai host im­por­tant in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ences, gov­ern­ments take the harsh­est mea­sures, sus­pend­ing pro­duc­tion and ban­ning cars from roads to re­duce air pol­lu­tants.

When cities are en­shrouded in thick smog, peo­ple ha­bit­u­ally point their fin­gers at the gov­ern­ment, crit­i­ciz­ing its in­abil­ity to clean the air. But they still drive their cars into the smog, turn­ing a deaf ear to the gov­ern­ment’s ap­peal to use public trans­porta­tion.

Set­ting off fire­works also causes fires and safety ac­ci­dents. In 2009, a new build­ing be­long­ing to the CCTV in Bei­jing’s down­town area caught fire be­cause of fire­works, caus­ing a loss of nearly 2 bil­lion yuan. And it is es­ti­mated hun­dreds of chil­dren lose their eyes or fin­gers each year across the coun­try be­cause of fire­works dur­ing Spring Fes­ti­val.

GAO ERQIANG / CHINA DAILY

Air pol­lu­tion

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