BEIJING, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- Beijing's fireworks sales have dropped significantly as residents exercised restraint in marking the Spring Festival to ward off foggy weather, a government official said on Sunday.
More than 260,000 cartons of fireworks have been sold from Feb. 5 to Saturday night, the Lunar New Year Eve, down 37 percent from the 410,000 cartons over the same period of last year, said Zhou Zhengyu, deputy secretary-general of the Beijing Municipal Government.
Beijingers were also found having spent less time on New Year Eve fireworks display, said Zhou.
The Chinese have a tradition of celebrate the Lunar New Year with a huge amount of firecrackers and fireworks, hoping the noise can fend off evil spirits and bad luck. The spree usually starts on the eve of the Lunar New Year, resulting in a spate of accidents including burns and fires.
On Saturday night, fireworks injured 25 people and triggered 83 fire emergencies, down 28.6 percent and 44.6 percent respectively from the same period of last year, according to a statement released early Sunday by the Beijing Office on Fireworks and Firecrackers of the municipal government.
Zhou said that the city authority has organized almost a million people including police, fire fighters and volunteers and more than 16,000 vehicles to cope with the New Year Eve firework spree.
Police helicopters were also mobilized to monitor fire-prone areas and transmit emergency alerts to ground control, he added.
Zhou attributed Beijingers' firework restraint to a government initiative calling on the public to reduce firework celebration to prevent air pollution.
Prolonged smog shrouded many parts of the country, including Beijing, in January, sparking debates over the tradition of setting off fireworks during the Spring Festival which falls on Sunday.
From Jan. 1 to 28, Beijing had 23 smoggy days, about 10 more than on average in the same period in the past 10 years and the most since 1954.
The average density of PM2.5 tiny airborne matter in January was 180 micrograms per cubic meter in Beijing, about 30 percent higher than the same period between 2009 and 2011, according to meteorological data.
After an hours-long fireworks spree on the eve of the Lunar New Year in 2012, the density of PM2.5 increased sharply to 1,593 micrograms per cubic meter at one downtown monitoring station, or 1.5 times higher than this year's most polluted day in Beijing.
In response, the government has reduced the number of franchised firework shops to 1,337 from last year's 1,429. Only 750,000 cartons of fireworks were put on sale this year, down from 810,000 in 2012.
Since Beijing authorities lifted fireworks ban in 2005 under public wishes that fireworks could create a more festive atmosphere, fireworks could only be set off within certain areas and certain times during a 16-day period around the Spring Festival.