Beijing in festival ban on fireworks

Shanghai Daily, February 12, 2011

Beijing authorities yesterday announced a ban on setting off fireworks and firecrackers near high-rise buildings during next Thursday's Lantern Festival.

The capital's fire department said the ban on the traditional way of celebrating Chinese festivals will be implemented at 11,370 high-rises, including residential building of more than 10 stories and commercial buildings reaching 24 meters high, reported The Beijing News yesterday.

No firecrackers and other fireworks can be set off within 60 meters of such buildings.

This is the first time Beijing authorities have implemented a fireworks ban since the city held the Olympic Games in 2008.

Then, the government didn't extend the ban after the games ended but put restrictions on the size of firecrackers used in the inner city.

However, a fire that destroyed part of the under-construction headquarters of China Central Television in 2009 led to a debate on limiting the traditional but dangerous custom.

Many people said on microblogs on, a popular Chinese portal, that the tradition should be cherished as their right, and that a ban would put a damper on happy occasions.

But others pointed out that fireworks can lead to accidents, as well as problems with pollution.

Statistics from the Ministry of Environmental Protection showed 27 Chinese cities suffered reduced air quality, partly due to firecrackers, on the second day of this year's Chinese New Year holiday.

Beijing's ban follows a huge increase in the number of fires in the city involving fireworks during the Spring Festival celebrations.

During this period, a total of 198 blazes caused by fireworks were reported - double last year's figure.

The nation reported more than 11,000 fires during the holiday, killing 40 lives, leaving 37 injured and causing damage of more than 56 million yuan (US$10.8 million), said the Ministry of Public Security. Most of these blazes were attributed to fireworks.

The figure does not include a firecracker-triggered blaze that engulfed a five-star hotel in Shenyang in northeast China's Liaoning Province, on February 3, causing 3 billion yuan in damage.