Public use of fireworks on New Year's Eve likely to be banned in Prague

Prague City Hall says the harm to the environment and to animals is unjustified

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 03.11.2020 13:30 (updated on 03.11.2020)

Prague City Hall is discussing a draft amendment to the law on the public using fireworks. If passed, it will eliminate the exception that allows people to set off rockets and other pyrotechnics on New Year’s Eve. Flying lanterns may also be banned.

Traditionally, people gather in Prague's Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square, as well as parks and other open areas, to set off large fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

Unlike many cities, Prague had its official professional fireworks show on New Year’s Day, though last year they had a videomapping instead.

The amendment would not affect professional fireworks shows, but the city has already announced it will not sponsor one this year. the amendment would nat affect professional fireworks shows, but Prague has already said it will not sponsor one for this  New Year’s Day.

The proposal, which has not yet been approved by the City Council, was submitted by City Councilor Hana Kordová Marvanová (United Force for Prague), responsible for legislation.

Negative experiences with pyrotechnic devices around the end of the year are the reason for the proposal. The currently valid decree prohibits the use of lay pyrotechnics in Prague within the whole year, with certain exceptions such as New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

The decree’s aim is to reduce the risk of injury to human and animal health, damage to property and the city, which also has increased costs associated with the disposal of waste from fired pyrotechnics.

 “The New Year's celebrations will be a little more considerate again! It will not be possible to fire New Year’s pyrotechnics in sensitive areas of Prague. We want to give peace to wild animals and our animal friends, but also to vulnerable people such as the sick and the elderly. At the same time, we want to protect the environment and property of Prague residents and the city,” Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib (Pirates) said on Facebook.

“We set out on this journey to Prague last year, when we replaced the New Year's fireworks with videomapping. And I believe that the new decree is another step toward a more gentle concept of celebrating the arrival of the new year. It makes sense to be more considerate of our surroundings, especially in today’s difficult times, when social responsibility is a much needed value,” he added.

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The proposed amendment extends the ban on the use of pyrotechnic products to New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Eve, in the most sensitive parts of Prague, such as near monuments, waterways and their banks, hospitals, homes for the elderly, specially protected areas, nature parks and zoos.

Waterfowl such as swans can go into a panic due to the noise of the fireworks, and many are injured or die as a result every year.

“Experience shows that at the turn of the year, especially in the city center, such as Wenceslas Square, Old Town Square, embankments and other places traditionally frequented by people, there is a spontaneous and uncontrollable firing of pyrotechnic products, even higher levels of danger. This often happens in close proximity to other people, animals, parked vehicles, buildings and structures, regardless of their protection,” Kordová Marvanová said.

“Pyrotechnic articles cause injuries, shock, trauma and death to both wild and domestic animals. The products also contaminate the environment with highly toxic chemicals,” she said, adding that it is indisputable that these days the use of pyrotechnic products by the public carries an increased risk.

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Garbage left behind from fireworks / via Raymond Johnston
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The wording of the decree is a compromise that meets the numerous comments of city districts, municipal departments, city police, the Ministry of the Interior and citizens. “We do not want to ban traditional New Year’s Eve entertainment altogether, but to limit the effects of the use of pyrotechnic articles on the lives and health of humans and animals. The purpose of this regulation is to prevent damage of all kinds caused in the past by the unlimited use of pyrotechnics on New Year’s Eve,” Marvanová added.

A second change introduced by the decree is a complete ban on the use of the flying lanterns throughout the capital. This is due to the risk of fire from the product having an open flame for some time during the flight. The direction, impact and burnout of the product after its release is influenced by factors beyond human control. The fact that the risk is not only theoretical is shown by cases of fires abroad and in our country.

The last warning was the discovery of a burnt-out lantern in the elephant pavilion of the Prague Zoo at the beginning of this year, which fortunately did no damage.

Prague Zoo director Miroslav Bobek agrees with the ban on lanterns. “I very much appreciate this step by the city management. Let us recall the January tragedy, when the pavilion of monkeys and apes in Krefeld, Germany, burned down due to the so-called lanterns of fortune. And the same day I received a photo from my colleague Martin Kristen, which he took at the elephant pavilion in our Prague Zoo. A flying lantern got stuck on the fence of the yard, but five more meters would have been enough for it to land on a pile of dry animal feed,” he said.

The idea of banning flying lanterns was first suggested as the end of January, but it was no longer a priority once problems related to the coronavirus became apparent at the end of February and start of March.