Education authorities in Beijing plan to include air purification systems as a standard feature in new schools, according to reports in Chinese state media.
he plan, which must be approved by the central government, is designed to combat high levels of toxic gases and harmful particles found in the city’s air. Concerned parents have been clamoring for added protection at the city’s schools.
“Schools must guarantee students’ safety and get permission from their parents before installing,” Xian Lianping, the head of Beijing Municipal Education Commission, told Beijing Times newspaper.
“If schools and districts can afford air filters, they can install them,” Xian added.
Beijing has issued two “red alerts” this winter due to severe pollution. Schools are closed during the alerts, and children are encouraged to stay indoors.
Fast growth helped propel China to become the world’s second-largest economy. But the rapid urbanization and industrialization also meant plenty of polluting factories.
The World Bank estimates the total cost of air and water pollution is equivalent to 6% of Chinese GDP each year. That includes the impact on health, along with damage to natural resources, such as ruined crops from acid rain.
President Xi Jinping announced a five-year plan to tackle pollution in September 2013, with the aim of reducing the country’s reliance on coal-fired power stations.
Critics, however, say the government is not moving quickly enough to reduce pollution levels.
— Zhang Dan and Jessie Jiang contributed reporting.