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Reduce fireworks in case of smoggy Spring Festival | Updated: 2013-01-30 21:19

Beijing's government should be prepared to control and even ban firecrackers if the city encounters heavy air pollution during Spring Festival, according to an article in the Beijing News.

Here are excerpts:

The country's capital has suffered from recurrent and days-long heavy smog and haze in January. As the Spring Festival is approaching, some are worrying that if the holiday were enshrouded in pollution, the city couldn't endure any more pollution caused by celebrating fireworks.

Such a worry is reasonable, given the dreadful experience that citywide fireworks in the lunar New Year's Eve last year helped to raise the density of PM2.5 –– air particles smaller than 2.5 microns and fatal to respiratory and blood systems –– to crazy high levels. The index around the Chegongzhuang monitoring station even reached an outrageous 1,593 micrograms per cubic meter, while the World Health Organization suggests only 25 micrograms per cubic meter as safe.

Thanks to strong winds, the heavy firework haze last year was quickly driven away, but it must be unimaginable if both the dirty smog and haze on windless days along with the firework pollution start to choke the air.

"Under the cover of haze, using fireworks is just like bombing ourselves with poisonous gas," as one resident said.

Firework pollution hasn't been taken into account by current emergency plans, and this loophole should be closed by introducing different levels of control over fireworks regarding different air pollution. For example, to advocate people to use fewer firecrackers when the air is lightly polluted, and a temporarily ban on fireworks in downtown areas in case of heavy pollution.

Technically, there's still a legislative problem, as the power to ban fireworks belongs to the Beijing Municipal People's Congress. To introduce the practice that the congress temporarily authorize the city's government to conduct special administrative measures during the 2008 Games, the latter can also be similarly authorized to impose a fireworks ban considering air conditions.

In a return to Chinese traditions, Beijing lifted the firework ban in 2005, but the environment has endured great changes since then, with rising air pollution, and people are also complaining more about noise.

As many people become more aware of their health, serious thinking should be taken in issuing and implementing better policies, as well as improving emergency mechanisms.

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