Beijing began the Year of the Dog on Friday, as the usual thunderous bursts of firecrackers and fireworks were silenced by a strict ban that sacrifices tradition in the name of an anti-pollution campaign.
A migrant worker from neighbouring Hebei province surnamed Zhu said that without the firecrackers, “the magic of the New Year is gone”. The low-key celebrations were in stark contrast to previous years, when the streets were crammed with Beijingers setting off firecrackers and the sky was lit by near-constant firework displays, unleashing a deafening thunder until dawn.
But the tradition, conceived as a way to ward off evil spirits, has this year been targeted by authorities anxious to lower winter pollution levels. Some 440 Chinese cities have banned the use of firecrackers and fireworks — which are also set off during weddings or when moving house — since last year. Beijing introduced a ban in December.
In 2017, the level of PM2.5 particles — which penetrate deep into the lungs — in Beijing over the New Year was 26 times higher than the level recommended by the World Health Organisation. But on Friday the sky was a brilliant blue.
With the beginning of the new year, we must expect that this year, there will be a strong confrontation to environmental hazards. Not just China, there must be many other countries which will have action plan against pollution.