Air pollution surges amid New Year fireworks

 

 

 

Photo taken on February 18, 2015 shows firecrackers and fireworks illuminating the eve of

the Spring Festival in Beijing.   Photo - http://www.chinanews.com/sh/2015/02-20/7073465.shtml

 

 

 

 

BEIJING  |  2015-02-19 23:42:55

 

Air pollution surges

amid New Year fireworks

 

By Li Zhihui, Cao Kai, Liu Min, Yang Yichen, Ni Yuanjin, Li Bin and Yang Yuhua

 

 

Air pollution reached “dangerous levels” in 106 Chinese cities at the height of the celebrations welcoming the Lunar New Year due to use of firecrackers and fireworks, a Xinhua tally has found.

Between 8 p.m. on Wednesday of February 18 and 10 a.m. on Thursday of February 19, the Air quality index (AQI) surpassed 300 in 106 cities. Based on China’s standard, an AQI between 201 and 300 is considered “heavy pollution”, and an AQI of over 300 is defined as “serious”.

The China National Environmental Monitoring Center (CNEMC) put the number of air-polluted cities at 201 from Wednesday night to the daytime of Thursday. More than 40 of them saw “serious pollution.”

Beijing had a superb day on Wednesday in the daytime as the AQI was below 50. While the fireworks celebrations in the night ruined it.

“I just showed off the ‘blue sky’ on my social network in the morning but the smog came back in the night,” lamented a Beijing resident surnamed Chen.

The municipal environment bureau said pollutants rapidly increased from 8 p.m. on New Year’s eve sufficiently to cause “heavy pollution” at midnight.

The peak readings of PM 2.5, the airborne particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter that causes smog, reached 410 mg per cubic meter between midnight to 1 a.m. on Thursday, up 12 percent year on year, according to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center.

Skies in the neighboring Tianjin Municipality and Hebei Province were also polluted due to fireworks. The PM 2.5 level did not drop from its peak until 3 a.m. Thursday, according to the CNEMC.

Cities in the northeast as well those in Sichuan and Gansu provinces also suffered heavy air pollution, CNEMC’s statistics showed.

A single firecracker would cause heavy pollution within an area of 10 cubic meters, according to the experiment by Shangguan Wenfeng, a professor with the Center for Combustion and Environmental Technology with the Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Setting off fireworks during the Lunar New Year is an age-old tradition in China, with ancient superstitions believing the light and sound would scare away evil spirits. In more recent years, they’re used to bring a festive atmosphere during the country’s most important holiday.

However, fireworks have been increasingly blamed for contributing to the country’s smog problem, pushing local governments to implement measures forbidding or limiting firework displays.

Firecracker orders at Beijing retailers are down 20 percent this year as authorities have slashed the number of permitted sales days and reduced retail spots amid pollution concerns.

Firecrackers are officially available at temporary retail spots across Beijing ahead of the Lunar New Year. Beijing authorities have cut the number of days when firecrackers may be sold from 20 to 11.

But it is a different scenario in the countryside, where there is no restrictions on firecrackers.

The consumption of fireworks in the countryside is on the rise in recent years, said Li Shuai, a staff with the Anhui Provincial Fireworks and Firecrackers Association.

In Qianshan County alone, the sales revenue is more than 50 million yuan (8.16 million U.S. dollars) per year, said Li.

“The living standard in rural areas is increasing and setting off firecrackers has become a way of blessing and entertainment for rural residents,” he said.

Migrant workers who come back home always set off a large number of firecrackers during the New Year to show off how much they have earned in the cities, said Wei Bin, a cultural official in Rongshui Miao Autonomous County in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

“Because of the restrictions in the cities, some urban residents choose to indulge themselves in the fireworks show in the countryside,” said Shi Ke, who is in charge of a fireworks company in Guangxi.

Setting off firecrackers definitely will cause short-term air pollution but it is not fair to blame the cause of smog solely to firecrackers, said Pan Gongpei, a professor with Nanjing University of Science and Technology.

When expecting the government to do more to curb pollution, the public should also try to change their mindset and way of living by setting off less firecrackers or abandoning the habit to contribute to more “blue skies,” said Pan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEIJING  |   2015-02-19 22:32:25

 

Bad weather forecast

for many parts of China

amid Spring Festival

 

By Lin Hui and Lin Jianyang

 

 

For many Chinese people who are celebrating the Spring Festival holiday with family, the weather is undesirable in the coming three days as many parts of the country are forecast to have rain, snow, drop in temperature or smog.

A cold front swept eastward from West China from Wednesday evening to Thursday morning, bringing rain, snow and drop in temperature to central and eastern parts of China, the National Meteorological Center (NMC) said on Thursday.

There was an average temperature drop between six and eight degrees Celsius in central and eastern parts of China, with some areas dropping as much as 10 degrees Celsius, the NMC said.

In North China, parts of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Shaanxi and Shanxi provinces were hit by snow or sleet. In South China, parts of Hunan Province and Guangxi were hit by heavy rain or rainstorm.

The NMC said the cold front will move eastward further and central and eastern China will have more rain in the coming three days. In particular, some areas in Hunan, Jiangxi, Hubei and Guangxi will see heavy rain or even rainstorms.

Snow or sleet is expected in many parts of North and Northeast China, and some areas in Northeast China is likely to hit by heavy snow or even blizzard, according to the NMC.

The Center also forecast static weather for Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province as well as regions along the Yellow and Huaihe rivers, which is not conducive to the spread of pollutants and degradation. Under such weather, some areas would be unsuitable or extremely unsuitable for burning of firecrackers and fireworks, it said.

The Spring Festival is China’s most important annual event for family reunions. Chinese people traditionally set off firecrackers to celebrate the Spring Festival, especially on Lunar New Year’s eve, which is on Feb. 18 this year.

In Beijing for instance, the fireworks had already made the smog worse. The municipal environment bureau said on Thursday that pollutants rapidly increased from 8 p.m. on New Year’s eve sufficiently to cause “heavy pollution” at midnight.

Some 83,000 boxes of fireworks were sold in Beijing on Wednesday, a decrease of 34 percent, and more than 10,000 boxes of illegal fireworks were confiscated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HANGZHOU  |   2015-02-19 21:08:53

 Fireworks shop explosion kills 4 in east China

By Cao Kai and Fang Lie

 

Four people were killed in an explosion at a fireworks shop in east China’s Zhejiang Province on Thursday, the first day of the new Chinese lunar year, local authorities said.

The accident happened at about 4 p.m. at Xiangzhu Township, Yongkang City.

The victims included a child and three adults. Another two people were rescued.

Initial investigation showed that the explosion was caused by the shop owner, who set off a firecracker for trial but ignited the fireworks stored outside the shop.

The shop owner has been detained by police.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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