Every year, over 400,000 Europeans die prematurely because of air pollution, with many more suffering from respiratory and cardiovascular ailments for the same reason. 25,000 are from Romania. Romania, alongside other countries in the EU, namely the Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, and the UK, was recently warned on violating air pollution standards, and asked to take measures to remedy the situation. In the meantime, the Romanian Environment Ministry sent to Brussels a plan of proposals for reducing air pollution.
Invited to Radio Romania, Dorina Mocanu, General Director of the Evaluation, Impact and Control of Pollution General Directorate, explained: “Evaluation of the air quality in Romania is done in 13 conurbations and 41 zones, in line with European directives. It is true that Romania, like many other European states, has a major problem with the high level of PM10 particles in suspension in some urban areas, the main cause being road traffic, home heating, and, less so but not insignificantly, construction sites. I want to specify that the infringement procedure was launched for three conurbations in Romania, namely Bucharest, Iasi, and Brasov, for too high a value for the PM10 index, particles in suspension, for which the Commission issued a warning in 2014.”
In late January, upon the request of the European Commissioner for Environment, Karmenu Vella, Romania reported the stage of the measures taken by the local authorities in the three aforementioned conurbations, the timetable and the measures for the upcoming period.
Here is Dorina Mocanu once again: “These measures can be divided into three categories: the ones having to do with road traffic and referring to traffic management, which includes the program of incentives for renewing the car fleet by scrapping old cars, the national program for creating an infrastructure for electric cars, modernizing public transportation, including shifting to electric public transportation. A second category of measures refers to residential heating measures for energy efficiency by insulating the building envelopes, by modernizing the heating system, installing heating systems that use renewable energy, replacing old heating systems with newer ones. Most of these measures are already being financed, or able to be financed, from environmental programs. And, last but not least, the third set of measures refers to green areas.”
Greenpeace Romania is closely monitoring the situation, warning that there is a risk of fines amounting to hundreds of thousands of Euros a day. Alin Tănase, coordinator for energy campaigns with Greenpeace Romania, told Radio Romania that the most toxic substances are powders in suspension and nitrogen oxides, usually generated by cars.
He told us what should be done to deal with this: “As far as I know, the deadline is in mid-March, when the Commission decides what states of the nine under warning will be sent to the European Court of Justice, implicitly resulting in fines. Not much has been done, which is why the Commission is threatening with fines. Because some cities have exceeded their limits for some pollution factors, they are obligated to put together plans to improve air quality. As far as we can see from the plans issued so far, I am referring to the plan in Bucharest, there are a series of measures that help more, others that help less, among them widening the boulevards – there are a few mentioned in the plan, because by this measure cars would run faster, which means that they would spend less time idling, producing less pollution. However, my opinion is that this is a back and forth measure, because if you widen the streets you encourage car traffic. In addition to this measure, there is another one that provides for several kilometers of bike paths separated from motorized traffic in the city, because a great problem we find with pollution in Bucharest is wind erosion, which stirs up the dust in areas devoid of vegetation. There are also measures of encouraging public transportation, even replacing the heavy polluters with electric means of transportation, and I am referring to electric buses.”
In May, at the latest, Bucharest will have an Integrated Air Quality Plan, approved by the Minister of the Environment, Gratiela Gavrilescu.