Dazhou city, Sichuan province glowed orange and red on Monday evening as residents celebrated the annual Ghost Festival by lighting hundreds of fires along the riverside. The flames sent plumes of smoke rising into the air, resulting in the city’s AQI soaring.
The Ghost Festival (Zhongyuanjie), or the Hungry Ghost Festival, lands on the 15th night of the seventh month on the Chinese lunar calendar. On the date, residents burn incense, joss paper and other items outside of their homes or alongside roads as offerings to their ancestors.
The celebrations, as you’d expect, have a detrimental effect on air quality. A July 2015 paper titled “Annual Air Pollution Caused by the Hungry Ghost Festival“, published in Environmental Sciences: Processes & Impacts, showed that a 60 percent increase of chemical elements detected in rainwater “correlated directly with burning events during this festival”.
The hazardous impact was also reflected in the real-time data of Sichaun’s ambient air quality. According to CCTV News, the city’s Air Quality Index (AQI) rose from 42 (deemed “excellent”) to 233 (considered “heavily polluted”) from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Monday. The main pollutant was PM2.5 particles, the fine particulates which are the main component of smog.
While a majority of people in China partake in such festivities, online the practice has been criticized.
“Good traditions should be preserved while bad ones should be abandoned,” one web user wrote, with many echoing similar sentiment.
[Images via Sina]