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Ancient tradition, modern dilemma

(China Daily)

13:58, February 04, 2013

In ancient times, the Chinese burned bamboo stems filled with gunpowder to create small explosions and scare away evil spirits. That tradition has been retained as a part of the celebrations for Spring Festival, the country's biggest annual holiday.

It's almost impossible to imagine how different the atmosphere would be without the sound of fireworks and their explosions lighting up the skies.

However, even as fireworks bring laughter and cheer every year, those scenes come at a cost, both in terms of physical injury and environmental damage.

Every year sees a long list of accidents, serious injuries, and fires, all of which leave a trail of death, huge loss of property and worsening air pollution.

According to the Beijing Office on Fireworks, last year, in the period between Lunar New Year's Eve and the fifth day of the holiday, 170 fires were caused by fireworks and firecrackers, leaving one person dead and 194 injured. The situation was little better in other areas of the country.

This year, only five of January's 31 days were free from heavy smog and in an attempt to reduce air pollution, the office has called on people to refrain from using fireworks as part of their celebrations.

An index compiled by the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau showed that in the 24 hours following noon on New Year's Eve 2012, the density of PM2.5 jumped sharply to 1,539 micrograms per cubic meter at the Chegongzhuang monitoring station in downtown Beijing. Officials blamed the increase on the excessive use of fireworks.

A number of governments across the world have enacted laws and regulations to ban the use of fireworks because of environmental concerns. However, experts said the best way to solve the problem is to update production techniques in the fireworks industry and seek a balance between tradition and environmental protection.

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