Air pollution reaches dangerous level in 106 Chinese cities

Beijing, Feb 20: The air pollution reached "dangerous levels" in 106 Chinese cities due to use of fireworks and firecrackers during the celebrations welcoming the Lunar New Year, according to a report.

On the eve of New Year on Wednesday night, the Air quality index (AQI) surpassed 300 in 106 cities, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. Based on China's standard, an AQI between 201 and 300 is considered "heavy pollution", and an AQI of over 300 is defined as "serious".


The China National Environmental Monitoring Center (CNEMC) put the number of air-polluted cities at 201 from Wednesday night to the daytime of Thursday. More than 40 of them saw "serious pollution."

But parched Beijing had its first snowfall on the first day of the Lunar New Year yesterday afternoon. Beijing today is draped in snow white as most of city experienced moderate snow fall.

Skies in the neighboring Tianjin Municipality and Hebei Province were also polluted due to fireworks. The PM 2.5 level did not drop from its peak until 3 a.m. Thursday, according to the CNEMC.

Cities in the northeast as well those in Sichuan and Gansu provinces also suffered heavy air pollution, CNEMC's statistics showed. A single firecracker would cause heavy pollution within an area of 10 cubic meters, according to the experiment by Shangguan Wenfeng, a professor with the Center for Combustion and Environmental Technology with the Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Setting off fireworks during the Lunar New Year is an age-old tradition in China, with ancient superstitions believing the light and sound would scare away evil spirits.

In more recent years, they're used to bring a festive atmosphere during the country's most important holiday. Firecracker orders at Beijing retailers are down 20 per cent this year as authorities have slashed the number of permitted sales days and reduced retail spots amid pollution concerns.

But it is a different scenario in the countryside, where there is no restrictions on firecrackers. In Qianshan County alone, the sales revenue is more than 50 million yuan (USD 8.16 million), Li said.

"The living standard in rural areas is increasing and setting off firecrackers has become a way of blessing and entertainment for rural residents," he said.

Migrant workers who come back home always set off a large number of firecrackers during the New Year to show off how much they have earned in the cities, said Wei Bin, a cultural official in Rongshui Miao Autonomous County in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

"Because of the restrictions in the cities, some urban residents choose to indulge themselves in the fireworks show in the countryside," said Shi Ke, who is in charge of a fireworks company in Guangxi.


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