Fire­works sales to stop in smog alerts

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By ZHENG JINRAN zhengjin­ran@chi­

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.

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