|A pedestrian walks across an overpass on Beijing’s South Third Ring Road as fireworks light up the smoggy sky on Friday, Lantern Festival. WANG YUELING / FOR CHINA DAILY|
National weather center predicts heavy rain, snow through Tuesday
Heavy smog and haze, which has shrouded northern China for days and triggered criticism of the government, will likely be cleared by a new round of precipitation, the National Meteorological Center said.
Precipitation is expected to cover more than half of the country through Tuesday, with heavy snow in northern China and Tibet autonomous region, and rain in southern China, the center said on Sunday.
On the same day, the center issued a yellow alert for heavy smog in northern China, cities including Beijing, Tianjin, and the provinces of Hebei, Shandong, Henan, Shanxi and Shaanxi. The smog and haze will gradually clear after the snow and rain, the center said.
The heavy smog and haze has continued for several days since the Lantern Festival — the 15th day of the first month in the lunar calendar, which falls on Friday this year — when many people celebrated the festival with fireworks.
On Sunday morning, the air quality index at monitoring stations in Beijing's downtown areas read between 424 and 470, indicating hazardous pollution, according to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection said on Saturday that among the 161 monitored cities, 33 were hit by heavy air pollution during Lantern Festival due to fireworks and unfavorable weather conditions.
The density of PM2.5 (airborne particles measuring less than 2.5 microns) rose from 6 pm to 11 pm on Friday, when many people set off fireworks, the ministry said.
Chinese traditionally celebrate Lantern Festival with fireworks, with many people believing that the noise fends off evil spirits and bad luck. Besides, Lantern Festival day is also the last day of an annual period in which the firework ban is lifted.
Many people have suggested that the government should ban fireworks all year long.
As of Sunday afternoon, a micro-blog post by China Central Television's business channel questioning why the Beijing municipal government failed to take emergency measures during the smoggy weather had been forwarded more than 6,000 times.
"The government should not shun its responsibility or turn a blind eye to the smog," the channel said in its official micro blog account.
According to the city's emergency response system for air pollution, if a red alert — the highest level — is issued, traffic will be cut, with alternate driving days for even- and odd-numbered license plates and schools suspended. The city government has never initiated the emergency response.
Wang Yukai, a professor of public administration with the Chinese Academy of Governance, said that government should play a more active role in persuading the public not to set off fireworks during traditional festivals.
The public should also raise their awareness of environmental protection and celebrate festivals with activities other than fireworks during smoggy weather, he said.