Chinese people celebrated this year's Spring Festival holiday, which ends on Thursday, with less luxury and fewer fireworks following national calls to fight smog and extravagance.
Fireworks sales in Beijing slumped 37.7 percent during the holiday from a year earlier, with 195,000 boxes of fireworks sold between Lunar New Year Eve on Jan. 30 and Feb. 4, the Beijing municipal public security bureau said in a statement Wednesday.
In Shanghai, the maximum density of PM 2.5, which measures particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers, reached 290 micrograms per cubic meter of air on Jan. 31, down 45 percent from last year.
In east China's Jiangxi Province, neighborhood workers and volunteers at the Tianciliangyuan Community in the provincial capital of Nanchang distributed electronic firecrackers as a substitute for the real thing.
"Traditional firecrackers with suffocating smoke would worsen the already poor air quality. E-firecrackers, with similar costs, emit no pollution and can be reused in the future," said 62-year-old Xu Xuehua, a volunteer.
"The severe smoggy weather forced us to take action, turning to e-firecrackers and festive music instead of fireworks," she said.
Chinese people have a tradition of celebrating the Lunar New Year with fireworks to add to the festival atmosphere and fend off evil spirits and bad luck. However, with regular smog suffocating China in recent years, the contribution of fireworks to air pollution has drawn the attention of authorities.
Government departments in many cities have issued circulars, calling on residents to cut firework consumption during the holiday. Meteorological authorities also released a firecracker advisory index from Jan. 29 to Feb. 14 to alert the public about air and weather conditions in order to reduce air pollution caused by fireworks.
Burning incense is another Chinese tradition that affects air quality during the Spring Festival. Believers visit Buddhist and Taoist sites to offer incense to gods and goddesses and pray for blessings.
Since Dec. 10, Beijing's Lama Temple has provided environmentally friendly incense free of charge and has barred visitors from bringing their own incense.
The environmentally friendly incense is shorter in size and made from pinewood and cedarwood flour and other natural materials. The smoke and other hazardous substances it produces when burned meet environmental requirements, according to the temple's abbot, Hu Xuefeng