|Parents in Nanjing try to protect their children from heavy air pollution in the city on Thursday. Schools were closed on Thursday and have been ordered to close on Friday. Yang Duoduo/For China Daily|
Parents complain as city schools close due to high pollution levels
For many Nanjing residents, the closure of the city's schools, expressways, ferries and airport on Thursday because of heavy smog was just as irritating as the pollution.
The city issued its first ever red alert for poor air quality, due mainly to high levels of harmful particulate matter of 2.5 microns or less in diameter — known as PM2.5.
According to Nanjing regulations, a red alert is issued when readings of PM2.5 exceed an Air Quality Index measure of 300 for 12 hours in a row, and when visibility is less than 1 kilometer.
The air quality index on Thursday was above 330 for the entire day and it is not expected to improve until Sunday, said the city's environmental protection bureau.
Schools will also be closed on Friday.
Aside from the pollution, parents in Nanjing are complaining about the late notice given by the environmental protection bureau for the red alert on Wednesday evening.
The city's education bureau ordered kindergartens and primary and middle schools to suspend classes on Thursday.
Qi Guangyun, the father of an 8-year-old boy, said that he did not hear about the suspension of classes until 8 pm on Wednesday.
"It was too late for me to ask for leave (from work)," said Qi. "I had an important meeting with clients coming from Shanghai on Thursday morning. My wife is on a business trip and won't come back until Friday."
Despite the closure, Qi sent his son to school and asked teachers to take care of him for the day. A few of the boy's classmates also went to school because their parents were unable to take the day off.
On Thursday at 10 am, Nanjing Lukou International Airport was shut down and more than 60 flights were delayed.
All four of the bridges across the Yangtze River in Nanjing were also shut down in the morning and ferries across the river in the city's Pukou dock were closed because visibility was less than 30 meters.
Visibility in some remote areas of the city, such as Jiangxin Island, was less than 50 meters in the morning.
All expressways in Jiangsu province were closed until noon.
Wu Zhiwen a resident of Nanjing's Pukou district, said she feels sorry for her 5-year-old daughter because she has to breathe in this polluted air.
"After I used the air purifier for an hour, a red light popped up telling me that the air in the room was severely polluted," said Wu.
"Some people joked on the Internet that they had suddenly lost their eyesight when they opened the curtains this morning, but I cannot laugh when I think of my daughter."
Liu Jianlin, chief engineer at the environmental protection bureau for Jiangsu province, said industrial emissions contribute most to the city's air pollution.
"The emissions from cars, farmers burning straw and dust from many infrastructure construction sites have made the situation even worse," Liu said.
She added that the air pollution can only be improved if cities throughout the region work together.
"The work of environmental protection departments is far from enough," said Liu.
The National Meteorological Center in Beijing renewed on Thursday a yellow alert for fog and smog as dense air continues to choke China's eastern and northern provinces, including Shandong, Hebei, Shanxi, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui and Jiangxi. A yellow alert is the third highest in China's four-level alert system.