Fewer fireworks help keep air clean

Updated: 2016-02-16 08:02

By Zheng Jinran(China Daily)

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Beijing saw three days of blue skies last week, a 16 percent year-on-year decrease in PM2.5

Beijing enjoyed better air quality during the weeklong Spring Festival holiday compared to last year thanks to wind and fewer fireworks, the capital environment authority said on Monday.

From Feb 7 to 13, the capital saw three days with good air quality and a large reduction in the average reading of PM2.5 - which decreased by 16 percent from the same period in 2015, according to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau.

PM2.5 refers to particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter that is hazardous to human health. Its average reading during the holiday was 98 micrograms per cubic meter, down from 117 in 2015.

Residents also saw three days where pollution reached medium and heavy levels, when it is suggested that seniors and children stay indoors.

"More days with better weather to disperse air pollutants and fewer fireworks were the major contributors to the improvement in air quality," Sun Feng, senior engineer in air quality monitoring of the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center, said on Monday.

It's estimated that sales of fireworks in Beijing saw a year-on-year reduction of 20 to 30 percent, the bureau said.

Fewer fireworks did alleviate air pollution during the week, but they were still a prominent contributor to soaring pollution on the eve and day of Spring Festival (Feb 8), the bureau said.

On the festival eve, Beijing saw PM2.5 readings climb quickly from a 'good' level of less than 100 at 7 pm on Feb 7 to 1,000 - the most hazardous level - before 6 am on Feb 8, the municipal environment watchdog said.

Most cities experienced the same situation, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said.

Among the 338 cities with regular air quality monitoring, 271 saw air quality failing to reach the national safety level from the eve to the morning of Spring Festival, 54 more than in 2015, said Hu Kemei, deputy head of the pollution monitoring department under the ministry.

Among the polluted cities, residents in 66 cities saw the pollution index reach the highest level.

Hu said fireworks were a major contributor to the soaring PM 2.5 readings.

Setting off fireworks to embrace the Spring Festival is a tradition for Chinese.

There have been debates for years on whether to forbid fireworks, and many cities have issued restrictions.

"I noticed the choking air when setting off firecrackers, but it's also the smell of the holiday, reminding me of a new year's arrival," said Zhang Dong, a 28-year-old from Shijiazhuang, Hebei province.

"I can bear the temporary jump in pollution on that special night."


(China Daily 02/16/2016 page5)