40,000 Fireworks Complaints so far
Setting off fireworks is allowed starting Tuesday morning at 10:00, but the Hotline Firework Nuisance has already received over 40,000 complaints. Initially the reports concerned loud bangs from illegal fireworks, but since this past weekend, when legal sales started, people complain about a "barrage of bangs", reports initiator Arno Bonte.This is the second year in a row Bonte opened the hotline. His initiative is shared by fifteen local GroenLinks fractions, and supported by the Dutch Ophthalmic Association. Bonte, GroenLinks chairman in Rotterdam, strives for a new year with fireworks shows organized by the municipality without the continued popping between Christmas and Epiphany.
Last year a total of 80,000 complaint came in through the hotline. So far, the number of reports is about the same as last year's, according to Bonte. He can already see a pattern: first the illegal fireworks with deafening bangs, then the legal fireworks that crackles on and makes the street unsafe, and finally the climax on New Year's Eve with maximum damage to mailboxes, garbage containers, and eyes and hands.
The Hotline has been up since December 22nd and has received plenty of attention every since. Almost every provisionally score finds a place in some report in countrywide news sites. The publicity also meets resistance, and the site has been targeted by cyber attacks. However, more and more people seem to favor a fireworks ban and the number of people setting off fireworks has decreased from 20 percent to 15 percent, but the group that still engages in fireworks is setting off more and heavier fireworks.
These are the people who spend all year looking forward to the last days in December, according to the GroenLinks chairman. 'But the reality is that the fun of a small group is at the expense of a large group of others. More than half of the fireworks victims are not the ones setting it off.'
As the "front" of the hotline he gets all the criticism. 'I'm a politician, I can take it. I did not perceive the threats I received as such. I see them as an emotional response to our hotline. It's sad we can't discuss the issue more as grownups.'
The hotline has already rendered its first results. Based on last year's report the City's of Rotterdam and The Hague are much stricter in the days prior to December 31st. The number of complaints in these cities went down with 10 to 15 percent, according to Bonte. In Nieuwegein and Vlaardingen fireworks free zones were established around schools and retirement homes. This New Year's Eve should prove if it makes a difference.
Bonte expects Parliament will be willing to make the rules stricter for next year. He notices a political "change of mood" that follows the growing aversion of the public to fireworks. 'A study from EenVandaag showed two thirds of the Dutch favor a fireworks ban. Last year the House held a hearing about our report, but did not pursue the matter. Now we feel a political change.'
A complete ban is still far off, but it's possible the House will agree to a restriction of the times fireworks may be set off, for instance instead of 10:00 in the morning, only from 22:00 in the evening. Bonte hopes illegal fireworks will be more strictly addressed and more fireworks free zones will be instated at a local level.
The Hotline will remain open until January 3rd. After that the complaints will be presented to the Lower House and fifteen mayors. Visitors to the site can pick from eight kinds of nuisance: loud bangs, unhealthy smog, damage, threats of hindering aid provider, dangerous situations for onlookers, passers-by or animals. There's also room for comments.