SINGAPORE -The number of complaints over burning joss paper during the Chinese New Year period fell by 70 per cent, from 886 cases in 2022 to 282 cases in 2023, the Alliance for Action (AfA) on Norms for Joss Paper Burning said on Wednesday.
Indiscriminate burning of joss paper along HDB corridors, on drain gratings and in public spaces typically occurs during the eighth or ninth day of the Chinese New Year (which fell on Jan 29 and 30 in 2023) to coincide with the Jade Emperor’s birthday.
According to data provided by the Municipal Services Office, the volume of resident feedback received by town councils and government agencies was significantly less in 2023.
There were 112 complaints during the peak period in 2023, fewer than during the same period in 2021 and 2022, when the cases exceeded 380 each, said the AfA, which aims to encourage responsible burning practices.
Between Jan 16 and Feb 5, 2023, the alliance launched its second public education campaign. This included messages to encourage responsible joss paper burning which were displayed at 17 town councils’ noticeboards and religious goods shops.
The first campaign was held during the Hungry Ghost month in 2022, from July 29 to Aug 26.
The latest campaign reminded residents not to burn joss papers along common corridors and encouraged them to consider conducting new year prayer rituals in temples.
It also told residents to be considerate to the neighbourhood and environment and advised them to ensure that offerings fit into joss paper burners provided by the town councils.
Calling the results of the campaign encouraging, the AfA acknowledged the inconveniences caused by indiscriminate burning and said it will continue to remind and educate the Chinese community on responsible burning practices.
Its next campaign will be rolled out closer to the Seventh Lunar Month period, which is from Aug 16 to Sept 14.
Formed in July 2022, the AfA comprises more than 10 Chinese religious, cultural and industry associations. The Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations and Singapore Religious Goods Merchants Association are among the organisations with representatives leading the efforts to get people who burn joss paper to be socially responsible.
This came after residents’ dissatisfaction with the practice went up from 2015 to 2020, reflected by the growing number of complaints on cleanliness and health-related concerns. They included smoke, ash and the smell from the indiscriminate burning in housing estates.
However, following the establishment of the AfA and its first campaign, fewer people have complained about the practice during the Hungry Ghost month in 2022, when Taoists and Buddhists offer food and burn joss paper to honour their ancestors and pray for blessings.
Mr Kua Soon Khe, co-lead of AfA, said: “To change entrenched customary practices, we need sustained public education campaigns and timely reminders. More importantly, we also need to create greater appreciation of the significance of each festive event.”
Senior Minister of State for National Development Sim Ann, who is the AfA’s adviser, said: “The AfA has followed up on its early win during last year’s Lunar Seventh Month public education campaign with another successful effort to manage the burning of joss paper and related products during the Lunar New Year.
”This proves that a community-led effort to change social norms and mindsets can be effective if we do it right.”