Environment
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Gov’t Sends School Winter Break Bill to Majlis

If approved by the Majlis, summer holidays will be cut short to allow for the implementation of a winter break
Heavy smog blankets Tehran (pictured) and other major cities every winter. (Photo: IRNA)Heavy smog blankets Tehran (pictured) and other major cities every winter. (Photo: IRNA)
DOE has been advocating winter breaks for two years, arguing that it can help protect vulnerable people, alleviate road traffic and reduce air pollution

The Council of Ministers has approved a proposal drafted by the Department of Environment to impose winter breaks for schools across the country to help alleviate air pollution in colder months.

In a press conference on Sunday, Massoumeh Ebtekar, the head of DOE, said the bill proposes “distributing school holidays across the year,” the Persian daily Shahrvand reported.

In other words, summer holidays would be cut short to allow for the implementation of a winter break.

“The bill has been submitted to Majlis for review,” she said.

Ebtekar, who also serves as a vice president, noted that both President Hassan Rouhani and Education Minister Fakhreddin Ahmadi Danesh-Ashtiani agree that distributing school holidays can be beneficial.

“Aside from its effect on reducing traffic and air pollution, it allows people to travel in winter and go sightseeing,” she said.

With the drop of temperature in winter, a weather phenomenon known as temperature inversion occurs in which cold air underlies warm air at higher altitude, acting as a cap and trapping air pollutants in the city, which leads to heavy smog.

This phenomenon is all too familiar for residents of big cities such as Tehran and Isfahan.

The DOE has been advocating winter breaks for two years, arguing that it can help protect schoolchildren, which are considered vulnerable by health experts, from the impact of air pollution.

Substandard vehicles and highly-polluting industries in and around large cities are major contributors to air pollution.

Iranian automakers have been pressured by the government and the DOE to produce Euro 4-compliant vehicles to improve the quality of cars that ply the streets of the capital city, while DOE says it has doubled its oversight of industrial activities.

The plan to impose winter breaks is not without its critics. Opponents in Tehran, most of whom are members of the city council, say it will not help reduce air pollution. However, supporters say it could be an effective short-term solution, not to mention the health benefits for vulnerable groups.

“About 75% of Tehran’s air pollution are caused by cars, so any plan that helps reduce the number of cars on the streets can improve air quality,” Mohammad Darvish, director of DOE’s Public Engagement Office, told Jamejam Online a few months ago.

Darvish noted that the plan is not meant to be a permanent solution, but a short-term fix until a comprehensive solution is found.

“Besides, schools in most countries have two-week winter breaks, which helps improve the quality of education,” he added.

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