Fireworks sales to stop in smog alerts
Sales of fireworks will be curtailed in Beijing during the coming Spring Festival holiday if air pollution alerts reach orange or red levels — the two highest — as part of the city’s effort to minimize air pollution.
Setting off fireworks will again be prohibited during high alerts.
The restrictions drew both objections and applause from the public. Beijing native Gao Fei, 25, approved of them, saying he has not purchased a lot of fireworks since 2013 and prefers to celebrate the festival in a more modern way, chatting with friends online and visiting with parents.
But Liu Yong, a 45-year-old from Liaoning province who lives and works in the capital, said he would set off fireworks as much as he can during the holiday, because it’s a ritual that reminds him of his sweet childhood with friends back in his hometown.
“The government needs to strengthen its control of emissions from industrial production and coal consumption, not the temporary setting off of fireworks,” he said.
Residents in the capital will be able to buy fireworks from Feb 3 to 12 to celebrate Spring Festival, which falls on Feb 8.
If the same pattern continues from this year, fireworks will be allowed for 15 days, beginning with the holiday.
But if the capital has issued an orange or red smog alert the authorities will suspend the transportation and sale of fireworks, the Beijing Administration of Work Safety said.
Setting off fireworks has been regarded as an inseparable part of the festival and is a major contributor to bad air. During Spring Festival in Beijing this year, readings of PM2.5 particulate matter tripled in five hours, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said. The tiny particles are 2.5 microns or less in diameter and can affect human health.
Among the 338 major cities monitored, 160 saw air pollution reach hazardous levels during Spring Festival, the ministry said.
The peak reading of PM2.5 was around 900 micrograms per cubic meter in Shenyang, Liaoning province, while the national safety level is 75 micrograms, it said.
To cut down on pollution from fireworks, Beijing has set restrictions in recent years. The number of fireworks selling booths dropped from 2,418 in 2010 to 942 in 2015, and the sales also shrank.
The central government has launched a national campaign to evaluate basic school conditions and oversee billions of yuan in renovation projects in an effort to improve education in areas with high poverty.
The four-year campaign will include supervision of ongoing renovation projects at 218,000 schools in China’s 2,656 counties, focusing on safety and spending, according to government guidelines made public onWednesday.
A nationwide school improvement project allocated 522.7 billion yuan ($80.8 billion) to improving conditions at primary and junior secondary schools that provide compulsory education in low-income areas.
He Xiuchao, head of the supervision office at the Ministry of Education, said the campaign is aimed at ensuring the country will be able to modernize education and make it more equitable before 2020.
“It is a hugely important issue as it involves the basic education level of the whole nation,” he said at a news conference onWednesday.
The spending will help schools in the poorest areas purchase educational equipment worth 106.6 billion yuan, and renovate or expand school buildings by 220 million square meters. Formally launched in April 2014, it is the largest single investment for compulsory education in the central government’s history.
As of October, construction of 51.66 million sq m of school space had been completed, and educational equipment worth 28.2 billion yuan had been purchased.
Hu said the authorities will also enhance information disclosure to the public, including updates on the progress of projects and use of funds, to ensure that parents and society generally will be able to supervise the projects.
The investment will help ensure balanced development of the nine-year compulsory education nationwide, said Tian Zuyin, deputy director of the supervision office.
One of the main targets of the project is to ensure that pupils and junior secondary school students in all areas of the country enjoy the same education standards, he said.
WangJiayi, headof the education department in Gansu province, said a project there will prioritize the development of information technology to ensure that more students willbeable to experience the Internet.
“We should also take factors of urbanization into account, as the number of students in many rural areas could be reduced by half after the projects are finished,” he said.