The end of the year is drawing closer, and while Flanders has asked councils to impose a ban on the setting off of fireworks, a recent survey among municipalities has found one in three in the region will still allow people to bring in the New Year with a literal bang.
Flemish Animal Welfare Minister Ben Weyts last month asked for locally imposed bans on setting off fireworks and other pyrotechnic materials on the night of 31 December, which can have harmful consequences for animals and can even result in fatalities. However, research by Oscare, an aftercare and research centre for burns and scars, highlighted that more is needed than a request for bans to be put in place.
"As long as there is no clear ban throughout Flanders, shooting off fireworks, at New Year's Eve and during football matches, will continue to exist," the organisation said in a statement.
Weyts already tried to enforce a fireworks ban in 2019 through the so-called Fireworks Decree, but it was successfully legally challenged in the Constitutional Court, which said it exceeded Flemish powers.
Unaware of dangers
The organisation's research found that this will still be allowed in one in three municipalities in Flanders, including towns but also more densely populated cities such as Ghent and Bruges.
"Every year, people still get burnt by fireworks, house fires occur and animals panic, yet one in three municipalities in Flanders are still unaware of the dangers," it sounded.
The phenomenon is greatest in West Flanders, where fireworks can be set off in 61% of municipalities. In Limburg and East Flanders, too, people living in some four in 10 municipalities are still allowed to pop fireworks on New Year's Eve. The proportion is lower in Antwerp (22%) and Flemish Brabant (14%), but the organisation noted that the airports located in these provinces account for a large share of that.
Several Flemish cities (Antwerp, Hasselt, Leuven, Bruges and Ghent) ban private fireworks throughout the year, but on New Year's Eve, you can shoot off fireworks without a permit in Ghent and Bruges.
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Oscare strongly advised people against setting off fireworks themselves, as there is a "very real chance that they will end up burns in the neck, fireworks exploding in their hand, or eyes and/or ears getting damaged." A flare landing on a property can also cause enormous damage.
It has called for a total ban on the setting off of fireworks by private individuals, but also a ban on the sale of these products.