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Brussels: Sofia has no projects targeting air pollution

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Brussels: Sofia has no projects targeting air pollution

Photo: BGNES

Sofia has no projects targeting emission reductions from domestic heating, which is a major source of particulate matter emissions, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) pointed out in a special report entitled "Air pollution: Our health still insufficiently protected," which was presented in Brussels on Tuesday.

The auditors checked air pollution management measures in Brussels, Krakow, Milan, Ostrava, Sofia and Stuttgart and found that Sofia's Air Quality Plan does not include any measure that reduces emissions from households.

Bulgaria tops the table of lost years of healthy life from ambient air pollution per hundred inhabitants. The report notes that Sofia has no "industrial" monitoring stations, even though power plants and other industrial facilities are located there. The document explains that in Sofia, construction works caused the relocation of the Orlov Most Station in 2014. This station previously recorded the highest number of days of PM10 concentrations exceeding the limit. After its relocation, the frequency of such events measured in Sofia dropped sharply.

Bulgaria identifies domestic heating and transport as the two principal sources of air pollution. Over the last ten years, dedicated air quality funding dropped from 120 million euro in 2007-2013 to 50 million euro in 2014-2020.

Even though the European Commission recently won cases against Bulgaria and other Member States in the European Court of Justice, this did not entail an obligation to take the appropriate measures. In 2016, a total of 13 EU Member States, including Bulgaria, exceeded the limit values for particulate matter.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is the biggest environmental risk to health in the EU, and the European Environment Agency estimates that it causes about 400,000 premature deaths each year, with people in urban areas particularly exposed, the ECA says. It notes that some of the EU air quality standards are much weaker than the WHO guidelines, but most Member States still do not comply even with these lower air quality standards. Air pollution can be underestimated as it might not be monitored in the right places. The European Commission could not ensure that Member States complied with the air quality limits set by the Ambient Air Quality Directive. Despite the Commission taking legal action against many Member States and achieving favourable rulings, Member States continue to frequently breach air quality limits, the report found.

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