BEIJING, Dec. 12 (Xinhua) -- Firework and firecracker celebrations will be banned in Beijing if serious air pollution is forecast for the upcoming Lunar New Year, a festival that features massive use of pyrotechnics.
The ban will take effect if orange or red alerts for air pollution are issued during the holiday, which begins on Jan. 31, the city's office on fireworks and firecrackers said Thursday. Red is the highest in China's four-tier warning system, followed by orange, yellow and blue.
Residents will receive text messages reminding them of alerts, and police will in most cases just tell users to stop flouting the ban, said Yu Lianwei, an official with Beijing's public security bureau.
The Chinese capital has been dogged by heavy smog in recent years, and the news of the possible ban came as social network users called for fewer firework celebrations because of their contribution to air pollution.
The firework spree during February's Lunar New Year led to a surge in the PM 2.5 reading, which measures hazardous fine particles, to 500 micrograms per cubic meter on Lunar New Year's Eve.
The office said Beijing will also pilot the sale of environmentally friendly fireworks, which contain no sulphur, produce less smoke but are priced slightly higher than conventional ones.
Firework sales in Beijing are expected to start on Jan. 25, with authorities saying 643,000 cartons of fireworks are in stock, down from 750,000 cartons before this year's festival.
The Chinese have a tradition of celebrating the Lunar New Year with firecrackers and fireworks, hoping the noise can fend off evil spirits and bad luck. The spree usually starts on the eve of the new year, resulting in a spate of accidents including burns and fires.
For air quality and safety concerns, Beijing has already banned fireworks in the urban area, only allowing residents to let off them from the eve of the Spring Festival to the Lantern Festival.