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Monday February 3, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Monday February 3, 2014 MYT 8:12:12 AM
by tho xin yi
Concern over air pollution has led many to take the initiatives to say no to firecrackers and fireworks this Chinese New Year.
Messages that urged people to spare a thought for the environment were shared before the festival, hoping that the merrymakers would refrain from setting off the explosives.
Traditionally, firecrackers were a staple during Chinese New Year because the loud noise was said to be able to scare away a monster, “nian”, which came out of hiding in spring to attack the people.
The practice is continued into the modern days, but now the blasting of firecrackers is more of a symbol to usher in prosperity and good fortune.
Fireworks, meanwhile, add to the festivity with the variety of colours and patterns when burst in the skies.
Both leave a lingering odour of sulfur in the air and contribute to air pollution, so the environmentally conscious ones began to question the need to purchase them for the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival.
In Shanghai, Xinmin Evening News has joined forces with several universities and corporations to start a “green celebration” campaign to encourage people to cut down on the pyrotechnic display.
Targeting at youths, the campaign invited them to share photos of how they celebrated the Chinese New Year without fireworks and firecrackers.
Similar posts calling for people to reduce the explosions for the sake of cleaner air were also spread on social media.
The barrage of fireworks and firecrackers that usually greeted Beijingers during the holiday has slowed down this year.
Beijing municipal government has earlier announced that it would ban fireworks and halt the sales of firecrackers should air pollution rises to dangerous levels, reported state news agency Xinhua.
Residents would be notified ahead of the emergency ban via text messages when orange or red alerts for air quality are issued.
Taylor Zhang, a Beijing native, noted that the celebration was quieter this year.
“The blasting on the eve of Chinese New Year was not as deafening as previous years.
“While people still played with fireworks and firecrackers throughout the festival, the frequency has noticeably dropped,” the 21-year-old student of Beijing International Studies University said.
Zhang said the habit of marking the festival with firecrackers was becoming less popular among the young.
“While the older generation prefers to set off firecrackers during gatherings, we can do without the loud boom,” she said.
Beijing Municipal Environment Monitoring Centre announced on Weibo that the overall PM2.5 level on the eve of Chinese New Year has dropped compared to the readings last year.
PM2.5 refers to airborne fine particles that are less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter.
Attributing the concentration of PM2.5 to firecrackers and fireworks, the centre thanked the residents for playing a part in the reduction.
However, the air quality in the Chinese capital was still rated as severely polluted on Jan 30 midnight, according to a statement from China’s Environmental Protection Ministry.
A total of 68 cities in China experienced serious air pollution as the country ushered in the Year of the Horse, and 16 of which were severely polluted.
The statement said the southbound cold air on Feb 2 would ease the situation and improve air quality, especially in Beijing and north of Hebei.
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