China Environmental News Digest

Daily updated Environmental news related to China

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Beijing re-embraces firecrackers after 12 silent Spring Festivals

BEIJING, Jan. 28 (Xinhuanet) -- The Chinese Lunar New Year's eve was misty in Beijing, but the national capital did not lack shining decorations for the most ceremonious traditional festival.

12 silent Spring Festivals, or the Chinese lunar new year that falls on Sunday this year, Beijing regained a gorgeous festival eve which was decorated with splendid fireworks and livened up with firecracker clacks.

Beijing municipal government lifted a 12-year ban on firecrackers last December in a bid to add festivity to the lunar new year, which both scholars and common people complained is losing its traditional color in the modern era.

banned setting off fireworks in 1994 for fears of increasing safety accidents, mainly fire alarms and human injuries,and also out of concerns about air pollution.

the ban triggered controversy from the very beginning, as many argued it would lead to the loss of China's century-old folk customs.

firecrackers was believed to be an effective way to dispel misfortune and evils in ancient times, and thus became a must for the Chinese during major festivals and celebrations.

held a public hearing last September on the lifting of the ban. The local legislature then revised the law, permitting residents to set off fireworks during the Spring Festival holiday season.

the government took strict control on the sales of firecrackers for safety concerns. Only authorized stores could sell the products, which were obtained only after strict quality and safety check-up. More than 2,000 stores got the license.

municipal government organized the sales of 600,000 boxes of firecrackers valued at more than 100 million yuan (12.5 million U.S. dollars) for its citizens.

saw fireworks only on TV before, but tonight I set off them myself. They are as beautiful as shining stars! This is the most unforgettable Spring Festival in my life," said Li Rong, a 12-year-old girl whose parents worked in the Beijing-based Qinghua University.

Ping, a sophomore student at China University of Politics and Law, said he spent more than 200 yuan (25 U.S. dollars) on firecrackers this Spring Festival.

only lived in my memory before, but tonight they came back to my life again. When the ban was there, I often felt the Spring Festival was boring," said Wu.

accidents caused by firecrackers became a major concern in China in the late 1980s, and 282 cities banned them successively in the 1990s. More than 200 of those cities, however,had lifted the ban by the end of 2005.

off firecrackers, as part of the Chinese cultural heritage, is not something that could be completely banned. I think it is important for the people to enjoy the tradition that has been passed on for generations. As for the safety problems, the key lies in the government's effective management," said Liu Tieliang, deputy chairman of China Folk Litterateur and Artists Association.

policemen in Beijing were on guard on Saturday evening to watch over possible accidents, and more than 520,000 citizens were mobilized to act as their assistants.

Hospital, the most famous ophthalmic hospital in Beijing, offered round-the-clock service during the holidays. Most human injuries cases involved the eyes.

authorities were also monitoring air quality and were prepared to give warnings if any serious air pollution was detected.

27,000 cleaners were on duty during the holidays to clean wastepaper left on the streets by people setting off firecrackers.


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