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Festive firecrackers

(China Daily)
Updated: 2011-02-12 07:31
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That almost all cities that once banned firecrackers have made the annual Spring Festival an exception reveals how indispensable firecrackers are to the Chinese celebration.

We as a nation love firecrackers. A lunar new year holiday devoid of the spark of firecrackers would be insipid and incomplete. And as people's pockets bulge, more is being spent on firecrackers. The happier we are, the more fireworks we set off. There seems to be no substitute for these lunar new year explosives.

But as people return to work from their weeklong holiday, the same old questions surrounding firecrackers have resurfaced.

While lighting up the night skies and adding to the festive atmosphere, they also pollute and injure. While few complain about the noise, most of us have experienced what they can do to the air quality.

The city of Nanjing might be the only city that has reported a direct link between poor air quality and firecrackers during the holiday, but such a link is obvious almost everywhere.

The most conspicuous damage, however, came, as usual, from the fires and physical injuries caused by the festive explosives. In Shenyang, Liaoning province, a five-star hotel was destroyed because of fireworks, resulting in a loss of 3-billion yuan ($455 million). Between 0:00 am on Feb 2 to 8:00 am Feb 3, the Ministry of Public Security received reports of almost 6,000 fires nationwide, almost all caused by firecrackers. A forest fire in Zhejiang claimed six lives. The culprit - firecrackers.

In Beijing alone, from the lunar new year's eve to the fifth day of the year, firecrackers caused nearly 200 fires, injured 388 people, and killed two.

That local authorities have surrendered to the long tradition of setting off fireworks during Spring Festival is convincing evidence that public policies cannot go against the will of the overwhelming majority. Reissuing a ban on firecrackers therefore will be both useless and senseless, though some continue to call for such a ban.

But neither is it appropriate for nothing to be done about them. We need to find a way to make sure that firecrackers do not cause unnecessary damage while still creating a festive atmosphere. This does not sound like a big deal. But it is something the government must achieve.

We know there are already nationally valid industry safety standards in place. But the air and noise pollution as well as the human injuries indicate those standards are either too loose, or have not been faithfully executed.

The solution is easy and obvious - setting industry standards so that the firecrackers in the market are safer and more environmentally friendly.

(China Daily 02/12/2011 page5)

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