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Environmental concerns dampen firecracker sales

(China Daily)    13:31, February 16, 2015
A salesman waits for customers at a fireworks retail outlet in Beijing's Chaoyang district.

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. City authorities have cut the number of days when firecrackers may be sold from 20 to 11.

Authorities approved 942 firecracker retail spots this year, down more than 100 from a year ago. The city missed a key pollution reduction target last year and vowed more stringent efforts and fiscal support to curb air pollution this year.

Firecracker retail spots opened for business on Friday in Beijing. Retailers labeled as environmentally friendly have become a new favorite among consumers.

"We are looking for safer, less polluting and smoke-free firecrackers." said a Beijing resident surnamed Guo.

The less-polluting alternatives have an improved black powder and chemicals containing less heavy metals and sulfur, thus reducing hazardous sulfide emissions. However, the environmentally friendly products are also 10 to 15 percent more expensive than regular fireworks.

"You can tell from the orders that retailers are very cautious this year about how many firecrackers they can sell," said Pan Di, a manager at Beijing Panda Fireworks Co. "Our shipments so far have barely reached 110,000 boxes, and that's 20 percent less than a year ago."

Pan added that the share of environmentally friendly firecrackers among his company's stock has risen from 30 to 70 percent this year.

Setting off fireworks during the Lunar New Year is an age-old tradition in China, as ancient superstitions hold that the flashes of light and sound scare away evil spirits.

But in recent years, fireworks have been blamed for making air pollution in some cities even worse, forcing local governments to forbid or limit firework displays.

Bans have been introduced in 138 cities, and 536 cities have issued restrictions on fireworks, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

"It's really the less the better for firecrackers, since they pollute the air. But it's also a must-have for the festival, so I guess a little will do," said Beijing resident Cheng Xiaolong.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Yao Xinyu,Huang Jin)

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