High air pollution was registered over many places across the country through the first days of 2017. In the capital Sofia the concentration of fine dust particlas in the air exceeded the norms up to five times. The towns of Shumen, Plovdiv, Blagoevgrad, Pernik and others suffered the impact of air pollution as well. Dr. Emilia Stoineva, head of the Air, Noise and Radiological Monitoring Department with the Environment Executive Agency comments:
‘Fossil fuels used for heating in winter, car and public transport harmful emissions and unfavorable weather conditions such as low temperatures and the lack of any wind are the main reasons for fine dust air pollution. The agency has registered so far excessive concentration across 15 settlements, as it is highest in Plovdiv – 3.15 times higher and in Burgas – 2.4 times. People with lung diseases and asthma represent the vulnerable groups among the population. The highest concentrations were measured on January 2 in Sofia, Shumen, Blagoevgrad, Gorna Oryahovitsa and Pernik – values, exceeding the norm 3 – 5 times. The latter is 50 micrograms per cubic meter and the values are averaged from 00:00 am to 12:00 pm over 24 hours. One should bear in mind that Sofia is situated in a hollow, where any lack of wind and low temperatures cause the holding of atmosphere polluters which accumulate in the ground layer.’
We tackle the current issue and its possible solutions with Boris Bonev from the Save Sofia NGO:
‘According to the World Health Organization fine dust, or particulates, are extremely dangerous for one’s health. They may cause dementia, cardiovascular problems, lung issues, cancer… Data of the healthcare ministry shows an average death toll of around 55 people per 100,000. Some 800 – 900 people are presumed to die in Sofia annually due to bad air. What can we do? Free public transportation over pollution peak days, car traffic interchange of odd and even registration plates, the removal of some parking spots, establishment of more walking zones and a change of urban environment in a manner which makes it more attractive to pedestrians and bikers. The municipality might change the way of local tax and toll forming. Right now newer cars which are much more environmentally friendly pay a tax which is 2.8 higher than the one of old cars’ owners. It is essential for the municipality to realize the problem and to take preventive measures for reduction of traffic and prioritization of public transport. Usually they don’t seem to be interested in the problem until it is too late. Statistics says that the number of public transport users declines despite subway network expansion due to the irregular movement of that transport. We need more bus lines and tramway detents; also the introduction of an integrated ticket system is necessary. That shocking 60% increase in the price of a single ticket pushed away many from any public transport usage, as lots of people find it even cheaper to drive their own cars. The changes that we discuss would affect our wallets, but it won’t be shocking and unbearable if done in an intelligent manner. Furthermore, health has no cost. Data of the healthcare ministry shows that each third Sofia kid has some form of asthma. I think the health of our children is much more important than EUR 5 – 10 more paid per year on road tax. The municipality should define its priorities.”
Sofia Municipality refrained from any comments. The environmentally friendlier electrical bus gives hope for modernization of public transport with the test start of a single vehicle as of January 15.
English version: Zhivko Stanchev