Lasting Downward Trend in Air Pollution with Particulate Matter in Sofia
Sofia, October 12 (BTA) - There has been a lasting trend for decreasing air pollution with particulate matter in Sofia since 2011, Environment Minister Neno Dimov said here Thursday. He was speaking at an exchange-of-experience conference on reducing urban air pollution.
The only exception from the downward trend is one environment station in a Sofia suburb, the Minister said without naming the suburb.
In 2011, all stations showed air pollution with particulate matter that exceeded by far the maximum admissible levels and last year saw only two negligible transgressions, said the Minister.
He said that in order to deal with particle pollution, the Ministry is working in two directions: upping the standards for fuel used in domestic heating and tightening controls on the use of catalyst systems in vehicles. Major public discussions on these measures are due in the coming months.
Also, the authorities take measures to prioritize alternative means of transportation and electric transport, said the Minister.
Before the end of this year, municipalities will start to accept project proposals for improving air quality. A total of 111 million leva is available for such projects.
Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova said that the Sofia City Hall starts work on preparing a programme for improving air quality after 2020. There will be three priorities: making public transport more attractive and reducing air pollution by public transport through purchase of new and more environment-friendly vehicles; lowing air pollution from domestic heating installations; and increasing the green areas in the capital city.
The Mayor admitted that some of the measures to be taken will be unpopular because they are aimed against people's habits. She mentioned as an example the plans to reduce cars and increase bicycle lanes and the parking zones, and said such measures will need broad public support.
She said that the widening of the blue and green parking zones in Sofia is done with caution and that the aim is not to secure additional revenues for the municipal coffers but to discourage people from using their cars and make them go for public transport instead.
Georges Kremlis from DG Environment of the European Commission said that Sofia has done much to improve the quality of its air.
He said among the important projects are the construction of the waste management plant, the extension of the metro lines and the increase of co-generating capacities in the Sofia heat plant. He believes that it is realistic to expect that the heating utility network will broaden during the next programming period to take central heating to those districts of Sofia where the residents are low on the income scale.
The Sofia forum was organized by the Green Sofia municipal organization and the City Hall with participants from Paris, Vienna and Nijmegen.