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article imagePollution and Bird Flu crisis may dampen Beijing's Lunar New Year

By Karen Graham     Jan 29, 2014 in World
Beijing - Imagine the Fourth of July without the fireworks display on Washington's Mall, or New Years on Times Square without the ball dropping. In China, where fireworks were invented, the Lunar New Year on Friday may be celebrated without them.
In China's capital city, Beijing officials have warned the public that if weather patterns continue to hold the choking pollution in place over the next several days, displays of fireworks in celebration of the Lunar New Year on Friday will be banned.
To the people of Beijing, this will not be an auspicious beginning to the Year of the Horse, and the residents of the city have voiced their disapproval of the possible edict on China's version of Twitter, Sina Weibo. It must be said that the ban has met with approval from many commenter's, and this included an online petition, possibly helping the government to propose the ban.
Hong Kong Lunar New Year Fireworks 2007.
Hong Kong Lunar New Year Fireworks 2007.
KC Kong
Officials are saying they will hold off on the ban until just before the start of the New Year. If the ban on fireworks goes into affect, it will be a test of the authorities ability to control the populous from participating in a custom that dates back to the 12th century and the Song Dynasty.
Fireworks are a very big business in China. Most of the fireworks manufacturers are located in Hunan province, and they sell pyrotechnics all over the world. One of the biggest company's is Panda Fireworks, with a showroom in Beijing. Marketing director, Wei Bo, estimates that 60 to 70 percent of the fireworks sold in Beijing are illegal and quite possibly dangerous.
A well-rounded selection of fireworks.
A well-rounded selection of fireworks.
David Schroeter
According to Chinese Academy of Sciences research fellow, Weng Gengchen, with the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, it's a matter of balancing tradition and concern for safety and public health. The Chinese New Year, often called the Spring Festival in China, is the most anticipated and dreaded celebration in the country. Millions of people are traveling, visiting family and friends.
At the start and at the end of the lunar festival, the skies over Beijing are ablaze for hours with colorful, booming pyrotechnics, from both authorized fireworks manufacturers and also from illicit fireworks makers. For years, authorities tried to control the celebration, but after a series of deadly fires and badly burned children were reported in 1995, officials banned fireworks displays in the central part of the city for ten years.
This year, the concerns of officials with the public's health and safety are overshadowed by the public's disgust with the pollution problem. While pollution will often drop during the holiday because many people are out of town, and many factories are using skeleton crews, the fireworks can bring pollution levels back up. This is especially true when there is little movement of the air currents, leaving the pollution to hug the ground.
Another threat that may go along with the Lunar New Year is the possible spread of the H7N9 Bird Flu virus. It has already killed 19 people in China this year. With millions of people going home for the holiday, train stations and airports will be crowded, making for a perfect medium for the virus to spread. In the largest mass migration in the world, 3.6 billion trips will be made during the 40 day lunar period, with many people going back to childhood homes.
Chicken market in Xining  Qinghai province  China.
Photo taken on 12 June 2008.
Chicken market in Xining, Qinghai province, China. Photo taken on 12 June 2008.
M M (Padmanaba01)
Another tradition associated with the holiday is the killing of live chickens. To curb this practice, Shanghai and eastern Zhejiang Province have banned the sale of live chickens. Officials in Zhejiang have also started surveillance of farms as well as halting the flying of domestic pigeons during the festival. In Hong Kong, officials have shut poultry markets, requiring they be disinfected during this time. They will also cull 20,000 chickens while the markets are closed.
More about Beijing china, Chinese New Year, texas fireworks ban, Air pollution, Bird flu
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