Air quality in the Bulgarian capital city declined on December 21, but fell short of the levels that would prompt the city hall to offer the sale of “green ticket” day passes for public transportation.
European Air Quality Index data showed three of the five official measurement stations recording increased pollution levels over the city, but the city hall can only authorise the sale of the cheaper “green tickets” in case of sustained high pollution levels or a weather alert forecasting conditions conducive to the creation of smog.
No such weather alert has been issued, although the fog forecast did cause the Education Ministry to issue an order allowing parents of pupils with respiratory afflictions to hold their children out of school on December 21.
The weather forecast for the coming weekend included more fog in the coming days, but it remains to be seen to what extent the situation could be worsened by the expected mass exodus from Sofia – with between 200 000 and 300 000 cars, depending on the estimate, set to take to the roads ahead of the five-day holiday weekend.
Meanwhile, Sofia’s municipal council approved 205 million leva on December 20 in its 2019 budget for measures that are meant to help improve air quality over the city, including more street cleaning in winter and refuse collection.
Also on December 20, Parliament passed amendments to the country’s Air Quality Act that introduced tougher standards on coal and coal-based hard fuels used for home heating, with fines of up to 10 000 leva for the sale of hard fuels of inadequate quality.
However, an amendment that would have put more stringent requirements on wood and wood-based hard fuels was rejected. Instead, MPs mandated that the Agriculture Ministry publish regulations on acceptable standards for wood-based hard fuels within six months of the amendments going into force, well after the current winter heating season is over.
(European Environment Agency Air Quality Index for Bulgaria on the afternoon of December 21, showing increased pollution levels over Sofia and several other Bulgarian cities and towns. Screengrab from airindex.eea.europa.eu)