Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

People vulnerable to smog need better protection

By Zhu Qiwen (China Daily) Updated: 2015-12-09 14:47
It will take more time to figure out the consequences of smog and severe air pollution that is becoming a regular affair in Beijing and other parts of China especially during winter. But many studies have linked severe air pollution to some fatal diseases. A recent US study even suggested that air pollution is responsible for killing 1.6 million people in China every year, about one-sixth of all premature deaths in the country.

Many parents might be wondering why can't air-purifiers be installed in classrooms to protect students' health until Beijing and other parts of the country blaze a greener trail to sustain economic growth. But instead of meeting the rising demand of local parents for installing air-purifiers, for which some are ready to pay from their own pockets, the municipal education authorities have responded, at most, lukewarmly to the need of making classrooms pollution-free.

It doesn't take a health expert to fathom the effects of long-time exposure to toxic air on youngsters. But equipping tens of thousands of classrooms with air-purifiers to reduce indoor pollution will add to the fiscal burden of the Beijing municipal government. And even for Beijing, the additional expenditure of billions of yuan on education is difficult to afford.

However, if the first red alert on air pollution represents an urgent call for everyone in Beijing to follow a greener lifestyle, local policymakers should not hesitate to explore every possible way, including financial, to better protect the most vulnerable groups.

The fact that the Beijing municipal government has added air-purifiers to the list of household appliances needed for substantial energy-saving subsidies speaks volumes of the effectiveness of such equipment in reducing indoor air pollution.

Therefore, to ensure all students can attend cleaner classrooms, local policymakers must consider parents' willingness to support education as well as appliance manufacturers' eagerness to expand their market while they try to raise more funds for education by issuing municipal bonds. Domestic financial institutions may embrace such green financing more enthusiastically than the red alert demands.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily.

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