Beijing air pollution
The Chinese capital has for many years suffered from serious air pollution. Primary sources of pollutants include exhaust emission from Beijing's more than five million motor vehicles, coal burning in neighbouring regions, dust storms from the north and local construction dust. A particularly severe smog engulfed the city for weeks in early 2013, elevating public awareness to unprecedented levels and prompting the government to roll out emergency measures.
Smog-locked Beijing tries to persuade residents away from fireworks during Chinese New Year
Beijing will continue to publish a “fireworks index” during the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday as a guideline for residents on whether setting off firecrackers and fireworks could considerably worsen the capital city's already smoggy air.
The Beijing News reported on Friday that the Beijing Meteorological Bureau would publish a live-updated index on a scale of 1-4, which indicates air quality conditions ranging from “OK for fireworks” to “extremely unfit for fireworks” during the holiday season until February 14.
The "fireworks index" guidelines appear to have no legally-binding powers, as officials so far only urge residents to not set off fireworks when the index reading goes above 2.
However, during severe pollution warnings, the sale and delivery of fireworks will be banned, according to the Beijing Administration of Work Safety. Companies and individuals who violate this rule or engage in illegal sales would be blacklisted and lose their licences to sell fireworks.
Major cities near Beijing, including Tianjin and those in Hebei Province, will also publish their own forecasts on the fireworks index, to be released through radio, television, a hotline, and social media.
Beijing has had a tough year battling air pollution, as the municipal government frequently issued warnings to its citizens to stay indoors, and schools and airports were shut down as choking smogs descended on the city, especially during the winter.
A variety of weather conditions factor into the fireworks index, including wind direction and speed, humidity and rainfall.
After a few hours of fireworks ignition during the Chinese New Year in 2012, the reading of PM 2.5, small-particle pollutants deemed most harmful to human health, in some urban areas reached a whopping 1,593 micrograms per cubic meter, 64 times the EU's safety standard for a one-year averaging period.
Other government agencies have also called on Beijing residents to have a "clean-air New Year" by shunning some traditional New Year customs which could pollute the air, such as ritual burning of fake paper money and incense, lighting fireworks, as well as cooking outdoors.