THE annual Lunar New Year fireworks barrage in Beijing was notably muted yesterday following government appeals to reduce the celebrations after air pollution rose to near catastrophic levels over recent weeks.
China’s capital saw almost twice the number of smoggy days in January, with levels of small-particle air pollution going off the charts at times.
That prompted calls for restraint, along with a reduction in the number of licensed fireworks sellers and amount of fireworks on sale.
The fusillades that began on Lunar New Year’s eve on Saturday night started later than usual but still grew to furious intensity at midnight. They also died out earlier than usual yesterday morning and relatively few explosions were heard during the day.
Setting off fireworks to celebrate renewal and ward off evil spirits is a traditional part of the celebration that marks China’s most important family holiday. Sales of fireworks in Beijing last week fell 37 per cent over the same period last year, from 410,000 cartons to just 260,000, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
The city authorised 1,337 fireworks stands this year, down from 1,429 last year, and allowed 750,000 cartons of fireworks to go on sale, down from 810,000.
The Beijing Daily, the city government’s newspaper, carried appeals last week for residents to hold off on fireworks celebrations, saying not doing so would significantly worsen levels of PM2.5 particle pollution forecast to be in the hazardous zone.
City bureau readings showed levels well above 200 in most parts of the city yesterday, dangerous but still well below readings of more than 700 seen last month, when Beijing experienced 23 days of smog, up from ten the previous January.
Beijing was largely helpless in the face of the January smog, while schools cancelled outdoor activities, some factories closed and government cars were ordered off the streets.
Scores of people, especially the young and elderly, were treated at hospital for respiratory problems, elevated blood pressure, and heart complaints.
Last year’s fireworks created a thick haze that sent 2.5 microgram pollution levels as high as 1,500.
Beijing on Saturday night also saw just 25 injuries and 83 fire emergencies related to fireworks, down almost 29 per cent and 45 per cent, respectively, from last year.
Meanwhile, thousands of people braved the rain to pack into Trafalgar Square in central London yesterday to celebrate Chinese New Year.
Performers from China and the UK wore intricate and colourful costumes as they paraded through the streets of China Town, before dignitaries took part in a traditional Dragon Eyes Dotting Ceremony on the Trafalgar Square stage.
Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese ambassador to the UK, said: “It’s really become a carnival of British people and Chinese people.
“It shows our closer cultural relations between China and Great Britain.”
Year of snake
2013 is the year of the black snake. According to Chinese horoscope sites, the year will be one of steady progress and attention to detail. Focus and discipline will be required if goals are to be achieved.
Snakes are considered quiet, studious creatures, drawn to solitude and protected environments. This is the year to make headway in slow and methodical ways.
Snakes also have a sneaky energy, and special attention should be given to details before signing any documentation. The person born in the year of snake is likely to be wise and enigmatic. Despite a taste for the good things in life, they tend to dislike frivolities. In love they can be possessive and react badly to rejection.