Beijing makes 'no fireworks' plea amid smog concerns

A man walks past fireworks in the street outside an apartment building in Beijing early on 8 February 2016 for the Lunar New Year celebrations which marks the start of the year of the monkey. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Setting off fireworks and firecrackers is considered an essential part of Lunar New Year celebrations in China

Officials in China's capital, Beijing, have called on residents to refrain from setting off fireworks for the Lunar New Year, amid smog concerns.

The call comes after the entire province of Henan banned the practice.

Authorities have been under pressure to stop the heavy pollution blanketing the capital and other parts of China.

The Chinese tradition of setting off fireworks and firecrackers to ring in the new year is considered auspicious and an essential part of celebrations.

The Spring Festival, as it is also known, starts on Saturday and is China's biggest holiday period.

The Beijing government released advisories on its official Weibo microblogging account on Thursday night and Friday afternoon pleading with residents, city officials, companies and schools to observe a "green and environmentally-protective new year".

It pointed out that fireworks and firecrackers not only caused pollution, but could also lead to fires and accidents.

"Let us enthusiastically take action by not setting off, or setting off fewer, fireworks and firecrackers, and allow Beijing to have a bluer sky, fresher air and a more beautiful and safer environment this Spring Festival," it said.

Image copyright Weibo/ Beijing Municipal Government
Image caption The Friday statement called for a "green and environmentally-protective new year"

The government has approved only 511 fireworks stalls this year, compared to 719 last year, and fireworks sales have been poor, according to Chinese media outlets.

A report earlier this week by newspaper Beijing Wanbao said a recent municipal government survey of 1,000 Beijing residents found that more than 80% were not keen on setting off fireworks, with many saying they did not want to pollute the environment.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Many buy their own fireworks from temporary stalls in the city
Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Beijing has been blanketed with heavy air pollution in recent weeks

Provincial officials in central China's Henan province said earlier this month that they would ban all fireworks and firecrackers because of severe air pollution, while the city of Baoding in Hebei province said it would detain anyone setting off fireworks outside the four days of celebration.

The smog, an annual occurrence as China largely relies on coal-powered heating, has been particularly intense this winter, prompting deep concern and even rare protests.

The central government has moved to shut down or penalise heavy-polluting factories and move towards greater use of natural gas.

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