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Time to take the bang out of NY in the Netherlands?

If you are anything like the rest of us, your ears are probably still aching from New Year’s Eve. The Dutch love their fireworks, if you couldn’t tell, perhaps even more so than the "backyard pyrotechnicians" that run amuck in the United States every Independence Day. Strolling through the streets of Amsterdam on the night of December 31 can be an experience worthy of a summer blockbuster or a World War 2 reenactment.

According to a recent Radio Netherlands interview with Leo Groeneveld, the head of the Netherlands’ Firework’s Dealers Association, per capita, the Dutch set off more fireworks than, perhaps, any other nation while ringing in the new year. The massive popularity of both legal, and illegal explosives smuggled over from Germany and Belgium or ordered online, always makes for a lively holiday in Holland, to say the least.

Innumerable problems every year

News agencies across the Netherlands extensively reported on injuries, accidents and other mayhem resulting from this year’s New Year’s Eve celebrations. In Amsterdam, 123 people were arrested for activities ranging from vandalism to public drunkenness. One report claims 80 cars were set ablaze by fireworks in The Hague and 23 individuals were treated for fireworks-related injuries at a hospital in Rotterdam. Meanwhile, in Rosendaal, a group of thieves used fireworks in a failed attempt to break into an ATM machine.

But more disturbing were reports of teens creating makeshift bombs out of fireworks in their parents’ homes and others pointing projectiles at local wildlife and pedestrians. In perhaps this year’s oddest incident, a mouse cruelly attached to a rocket in Drachten has become something of a folk hero. Nicknamed "Astro," it has since been stuffed and can currently be seen standing in a "triumphant position" in an exhibit at the Fries Natuurmuseum in Leeuwarden.

Elsewhere, a youth gang threw Molotov cocktails at police in Zoetermeer and riot police in The Hague were called to quell a disturbance in the Ypenburg district. Despite all of this, the city’s mayor, Jozias van Aartsen, went on record as saying it was the quietest NYE down there in four years.

Calling for a ban on fireworks

It should go without saying that many in the Netherlands are calling for an outright ban on fireworks. The comment sections of numerous articles about NYE arrests are filled with locals demanding that something be done. A poll conducted by the research bureau No Ties, sponsored by two city councillors affiliated with the left-wing party GroenLinks, claims that 2/3 of the country would support such a move.

Although, a petition with 65.000 signatures calling for a Parliamentary debate about a possible ban fell on deaf ears back in 2009.

It’s easy to understand why no Dutch politician looking to maintain their position of power would dare support a ban on something as popular here as fireworks. Still, the problems they cause are hard to ignore. In addition to the incidents mentioned above and the thousands of euros in property damage they cause every year, fireworks hurt the environment, fill the sidewalks of many cities with spent explosive that linger for weeks and are a substantial noise irritant for humans and animals alike.

So, what’s to be done?

As many will argue, an outright ban will not solve these problems and will only remove a substantial amount of legal, and comparatively safe, fireworks from the streets of the Netherlands. Individuals willing to head to Germany or Belgium and / or purchase explosives on the internet will continue to do so. Others are calling for professional displays and celebrations on New Year’s Eve that would discourage people from launching off their own, personal caches.

A different solution might be the most practical. Increasing the fines and punishments for possession of illegal fireworks and / or the misuse of explosives. This might discourage them altogether while also funding enforcement and police overtime on New Year’s Eve.

What is your opinion on the subject?
Should fireworks be banned in the Netherlands? Or should authorities adopt another approach? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment forum below.

Brandon

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Brandon H.

I'm a freelance journalist currently residing in the Netherlands.

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