Banning fireworks not a solution

Updated: 2012-01-20 08:09

By Shi Aidong (China Daily)

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Banning fireworks not a solution

Fireworks bring joy during Spring Festival, but they are also a source of danger. The risk of serious fires and human deaths and injuries has increased since the late 1980s, mainly because fireworks with powerful pyrotechnics are made in bulk nowadays.

A debate has been raging for years on whether fireworks should be banned. Beijing imposed a ban on fireworks in 1993 and since then about 300 Chinese cities have followed suit. But Beijing lifted the ban in 2005 in response to people's appeal that lighting fireworks during Spring Festival was an integral part of folk culture.

But after 5,945 fire accidents were reported during first day of the last Spring Festival, which caused a loss of 13 million yuan, many people said the ban should be re-imposed.

Of course, traditions and customs can change. For example, children who grew up in Beijing during the ban may not have seen colorful fireworks light up the sky during Spring Festival. Instead, they enjoyed Spring Festival by having dinner with family and friends, making calls and sending goodwill messages to friends and relatives and/or watching the CCTV Spring Festival Gala. They must have accepted them as tradition. For them, Spring Festival may not have been associated with fireworks.

But the point is not whether customs can change. Rather the point is that we should not adopt legal or administrative measures to change customs, especially the custom of lighting fireworks, which has been around for hundreds of years.

We should reconsider the supporting factors for the ban on such customs. Take pollution, for instance. There are many old customs in many countries that cause pollution or create waste such as the famous La Tomatina festival, which Spaniards celebrate by throwing tens of tons of tomatoes at each other. We cannot ban driving just because vehicles emit greenhouse gases. Similarly, we should not ban fireworks because they are part of our tradition.

Of course, we should take more measures to make fireworks' display safe and to avoid casualties and property loss. The government should strengthen fireworks' production supervision and provide safety guidelines to the people instead of banning them to solve the problem.

The author is a professor and folk customs scholar at the Institute of Literature of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

(China Daily 01/20/2012 page9)