Ostrava’s clean air fund for children will pay out around 25 million CZK this year

In May 2010, the City of Ostrava established a special “clean air” fund targeted at children from areas suffering poor air quality. The fund enables children from preschools and primary schools to spend two-week breaks in mountain areas, where the clean air is greatly beneficial to their health. The season for the clean air breaks lasts from early November to the end of April – the period when urban air quality is most problematic. Applications for the upcoming season – from November 2018 to April 2019 – can be submitted until 25 May; all primary schools and preschools run by the City are eligible to apply. The available funding for the season totals around 25 million CZK.

The City of Ostrava has contributed 22 million CZK of this sum from its own budget – a record amount. The fund will also be topped up with around 2 million CZK carried forward from last year (funding for stays which were approved but later cancelled by the schools). Major regional polluters have also contributed to the fund (794 000 CZK in total). The chemical company BorsodChem MCHZ has contributed 44 000 CZK, the coke company OKK 100 000 CZK, Veolia Energie ČR 250 000, and the steelmaker ArcelorMittal Ostrava 400 000 CZK.

Kateřina Šebestová, Ostrava’s Deputy Mayor with responsibility for the environment, commented on the companies’ contribution:

“I would like to thank the companies that contributed to the clean air fund – but I am also hopeful that this year their contributions will be higher. Their total contribution last time was only around 4% of the total fund. I am sure they will respond well to our annual request for contributions this year.”

At the end of last year, schools not run by the City (e.g. private schools) were still eligible for funding to pay for clean air breaks as part of a grant programme announced in December; however, only one school (the Hello secondary school, primary school and preschool) applied.

Kateřina Šebestová gave more details of the clean air fund:

“When we originally set up the fund, the City made an initial contribution of 5 million CZK from its budget. That sum has gradually increased, so this year we paid out 22 million CZK. Thanks to this increased funding, the programme can reach many more children, who can enjoy two-week breaks in the healthy mountain air. Since 2010, almost 18 000 children have participated in the scheme, and in the upcoming season we plan to approve funding for a record number of children. This is the first time that we have had a sum as high as 25 million CZK available to fund this valuable scheme.”

For the period from November 2017 to April 2018, the City of Ostrava provided almost 19 million CZK for 2582 children from 33 schools, plus 638 preschool children from the municipal districts Moravská Ostrava a Přívoz, Stará Bělá and Nová Bělá, who went (or will go) on two-week breaks accompanied by a family member.

The fund can also be used to pay for stays of 2 weeks or more in areas where air quality is not affected by smog. The fund pays for accommodation, meals, transport, and healthy activities (sports such as skiing and swimming, or salt cave spa programmes), plus insurance and fees. Schools can use up to 6 000 CZK of the funding per pupil. The meals must meet the quality standards of school meal provision, and the accommodation must meet the legally required standards for summer camps and similar events.

The most popular destinations for the clean air breaks are the Jeseníky and Beskydy mountains and the Vsetín hills.