Air pollution in Sofia: Drastic measures envisaged

Written by on December 13, 2017 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Air pollution in Sofia: Drastic measures envisaged

Walking along main streets or central intersections in Sofia, the most toxic capital in Europe, is neither fun nor healthy these days. People actually feel the Diesel particles and all other pollutants filling the air, while inhaling them. Some pedestrians even walk around wearing masks, like in Shanghai. And they are right.

It is a deadly mix, which fills Sofia’s air. Yes, deadly is the right word, since the number of deaths caused by air pollution in Bulgaria is higher than anywhere else in Europe.

The main sources of the terrible air pollution in Sofia are old vehicle engines, as well as wood and coal heating. On top of that, the geographical position of Sofia does not really help. The toxic air will not be blown away as easily as in other cities, because of the near by mountains.

Sofia Municipality knows there is a huge problem. They might be moving slowly on this one, but they are. Mayor Yordanka Fandakova recently ordered more than 60 green buses and rather expensive trams. Also, the third Metro line is being built.

In the past years, there has also been talk about measures which “might need to be taken” in winter, when the air quality deterriorates. But so far, those measures were not implemented. This might change now. Yes, we are back to “might”.

These are the measures Sofia Municipality is considering:

> Reducing the ticket prices in public transport or giving them away for free

> “Easier” parking at Metro stations outside the city centre

> A sharp increase in parking fees in the Blue Zone located in the city centre

> The most radical one: A driving ban

According to Deputy Mayor of Ecology Ioana Hristova, some of these measures might be taken rather soon, meaning this winter, while the more radical ones would have to wait, since legal changes are necessary in their cases.

Mediapool, a Bulgarian-language publication, reports, Sofia Municipality received air quality forecasts from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences on a daily basis. Every time the concentration of particulate matter in the air exceeded 50 mg per cubic meter, measures would apply. The more polluted the air, the more radical the measures would turn out to be.

Deputy Mayor of Ecology Ioana Hristova was quoted saying she hoped residents would accept any measures taken as necessary. She also said some measures might have to be replaced by new ones, in case they do not have the effect intended.

The measures, none of which have been taken so far, will apply in different stages. When the concentration of particulate matter is 51 to 100mg per cubic metre, the city says it might offer free parking at Metro stations around Sofia. Those who accept the offer would receive free Metro tickets.

When the concentration hits 151 to 200mg per square metre, the city intends to ask residents not to use their cars. The parking fees in the city centre would double. And if the concentration of particulate matter increases even more, two of the measures envisaged might apply.

Measures which do need changes in laws and regulations will have to wait. Nobody knows how long it will take to change them. But everyone knows time is of essence. Drastic measures are needed to curb one of the most serious problems Sofia has.

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About the Author

Imanuel Marcus is Associate Editor of The Sofia Globe. He is German and lives in Sofia. Contact: imanuelmarcus (at) gmail.com