Environment

Sofia upgrading air pollution response system, may restrict traffic

Sofia particulate matter AQI air pollution quality

Photo: Johannes Plenio from Pixabay

Published

December 23, 2019

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Published:

December 23, 2019

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The center of Bulgaria’s capital city has good air quality for the first time since the beginning of December, according to data from Air Visual. After spiking to as much as 170 points on a daily scale, the US AQI measure finally fell slightly below 50 by noon, though the second half of the day remains.

Index readings between 151 and 200 are marked red for unhealthy. The municipality has established a protocol for forecasts indicating a worsening in air pollution.

Expectations of excessive presence of particulate matter under 10 and 2.5 micrograms have been triggering a response by the authorities in Sofia in the form of so-called buffer parking spaces, for instance. In case of strong air pollution, drivers can leave cars for free outside several subway stations if they have tickets for public transport.

The green daily pass costs a mere BGN 1 or 99.4 euro cents. The measures are implemented according to averages at air quality stations operated by the Executive Environment Agency. The city government has advocated for the use of metro, tram and buses in order to counter the trend of concentration of particles in the air.

Inspection on lookout for sources

Mayor Yordanka Fandakova and her associates are urging households to switch from fossil fuels for heating to cleaner solutions. However, they went further and organized additional street washing and sent teams checking for sources of air pollution including construction sites, commercial and industrial facilities.

People should refrain from driving in extraordinary circumstances, in the decision makers’ view. Fandakova has claimed she is behind the initiative by a group of members of parliament from GERB to ban uncontrolled burning of municipal solid waste.

The green daily pass for public transport costs a mere BGN 1 or 99.4 euro cents

The bill by the party, which holds power in Bulgaria, was warranted as together with the heating on solid fuels the practice is the main cause of the alarm, she said and brushed off the notion that automobiles caused it.

Replacing heaters for free

Sofia’s chief promised the municipality would replace heaters with environmentally friendly devices for free. She added the Ministry of Transport, Information Technology and Communications agreed to allow for polluting vehicles to be pulled over in zones designated for low emissions.

Success requires “serious work” and unpopular tools, Fandakova acknowledged and said traffic would be restricted in case of bad forecasts. The system is “slowly” bringing results, in her view. She also slammed critics of the plan to build a waste incinerator for so-called refuse-derived fuel or RDF, saying such facilities exist in some of the cleanest cities in the continent.

Air pollution data on bus stops

In September, the Sofia City Court detailed the obligations for the local authority after it failed to implement part of the measures from an order issued in July. The municipal government was forced to put air quality data on its website and Facebook page together with information about the frequency of street washing and targets for planting trees. Public transport stops should also be equipped with displays showing air pollution per cubic meter.

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