Bucharest is the most crowded European capital, and 5th in the world in terms of traffic jams.
Bucharest is the most crowded European capital, and 5th in the world in terms of traffic jams. Air pollution kills over 23,000 Romanians every year, with ailments such as lung cancer, heart disease, and strokes, as well as lower respiratory infections and chronic lung disease. This is part of the conclusions of research carried out by the Romanian Health Observatory NGO, which studied the 10 most polluted cities in Romania. The fight against the ill effects of pollution is not carried out very efficiently, according to the study. The WHO confirmed the data, also pointing out that the vehicle crowding in Romanian cities is a major public health hazard due to suspended particle pollution, the notorious PM10 and PM 2.5 emitted by Diesel engines. In 2017, Romania imported 520,000 second hand vehicles with no legal restriction, since the environmental tax was declared illegal by the European Court of Justice. In addition, it was not repaced by any measure meant to curb imports of polluting second hand vehicles. Stefan Voinea, a representative of the Romanian Health Observatory:
“Within two or three years we became a sort of graveyard for old cars from Europe, for countries like Germany and France to dump polluting cars, because we can get them very cheap, with no strategy to block this. About a third of lung cancers are caused directly by the pollution produced by Diesel vehicles. The problem is that, in all cases of this kind of disease, pollution is considered to be a contributing factor, not a direct cause of death or disease. However, we have methodologies that clearly show the impact on health and the number of years of life lost as a direct result of pollution. The WHO cancer research institute classified Diesel emissions as type 1 carcinogens, the most dangerous kind.”
Air toxicity has started to cause concern among the inhabitants of Bucharest. Recently, 4,600 citizens filed a petition to initiate a lawsuit, which was registered on May 9th. It is called 'The Right to Air”, based on clean air being a constitutional right, also on the basis of European legislation which Romania adopted, on the basis of which the EC has initiated infringement procedures against the country. Lawyer Marius Petroiu, the initiator of the petition and the lawsuit against Bucharest City Hall, provided us with details, showing that the deplorable situation of air pollution in Bucharest has long been known to the authorities, with reports from the Ministry of the Environment, also conveyed to the EC on the basis of community acquis. Here he is with details:
“This report shows that some Romanian municipalities are highly polluted with carcinogens. One of them is nitrogen oxide, in the form of nitrogen dioxide, which is four times more dangerous and a worse pollutant, being also responsible for greenhouse effects and smog in certain cities. Under these conditions, Bucharest City Hall, as a local authority, should have adopted a clean air plan with effective measures to protect the most vulnerable categories, youth and the elderly. Their response has been an Integrated Plan for Air Quality, which was passed as late as June 2018, only a year ago, even though the reports to the Commission on exceeding normal values started in 2007. For 11 years, Bucharesters have been breathing in toxic air. As for this plan, City Hall claims it is applying it, and that it has already been enforcing it, even claiming that pollution has been dropping.”
In spite of this, any citizen of Bucharest can testify to the contrary. Pollution is rising palpably, since it is a fact that the number of vehicles in the city has been rising. Therefore, the measures claimed by the authorities have had no effect, and the clean air plan, as noted by the people filing the Right to Air petition, should be voided and replaced by an effective one. Here is Marius Petroiu once again:
“The plan should have been written based on an air quality study. Even though it was adopted in 2018, City Hall issued this plan based on a 2013 study, which naturally has no indicator as per the number of vehicles which were effectively in traffic in Bucharest on the date of the plan, not even a year before. On the contrary. There is no indication as to the number of vehicles circulating in Bucharest and polluting the town. However, even this obsolete study from 2013 mentioned that there was no evaluation of an important kind of pollution, that from demolitions and construction sites. A recent estimate shows that a third of the pollution in the city is from construction sites, while road traffic provides the rest.”
The fact that traffic pollution is on the rise, in parallel to declining health, is a well-known and documented fact for City Hall, according to Marius Petroiu:
“Bucharest in 2013 had a very high level of respiratory ailments. In addition, in January 2018, the Court of Accounts published a report on the monitoring of air quality in Romanian municipalities, and mentioned that Bucharest as opposed to the rest of the country has a life expectancy 22 months lower than other cities. The most interesting, but also the most dramatic, is something else. We filed an information request which revealed that compared to 2013, when the air quality study was run, by the end of 2018 the number of cancer cases in Bucharest rose by 24%. It is not known if pollution is the cause of this. However, even City Hall, through its integrated air quality plan, admitted that the pollutants that have to be reduced are carcinogens: nitrogen dioxide, benzene, and PM10. They are caused by road traffic and Diesel emissions. Therefore, air pollution control measures should be targeted at vehicles.”
Measures to curb pollutants are never too late in coming, but their delay may have catastrophic consequences.