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Poland bids to cut air pollution from coal

ITN News Editor
By ITN News Editor November 6, 2018 15:42

Poland bids to cut air pollution from coal

Poland is entering smog season with the onset of winter.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Poland has some of the most polluted areas on the planet, ranking alongside places with infamously poor air quality, such as Beijing and New Delhi.

A 2016 WHO report found that 33 of the 50 most-polluted places in the European Union (EU) were in Poland, mostly in the country’s south.

Katowice, which lies at the heart of Poland’s coal country in the southern Silesia region, is one of them.

Poland remains one of the countries most reliant on coal for generating electricity. Coal currently produces around 80 percent of the country’s energy, although the Polish government wants this figure to decrease to 50 percent by 2050.

What contributes most to Poland’s smog problems, however, is the burning of low-quality coal and rubbish in inefficient furnaces for heating, as well as emissions from transport.

Earlier this month the government approved long-awaited regulations that define the quality of coal that may be used by households and small companies and aim to ban the dirtiest coal to make the air cleaner.

But the change will only take effect from June 30 2020, drawing criticism from environmentalists.

Despite its dirty reputation, Katowice is the host city for December’s United Nations climate conference. Local authorities say it was one of the first cities in Poland to develop a ‘low-emission economy plan’ to improve air quality and public health.

Katowice mayor Marcin Krupa says despite ingrained habits from their coal-mining culture, residents are becoming more aware of the relationship between what they use to keep their houses warm and their health.

He argues that although coal may be cheaper, the money saved will be spent in increased healthcare costs. Some 700 people die in Katowice every year due to bad air quality, according to Krupa.

As well as technical measures, Katowice and other cities in the region are organising other events to make people aware of the benefits of clean air.

Among these was an ‘environmentally-friendly tram’ filled with plants which travelled on a number of cities’ tram networks and giving passengers information about how to adopt a more low-emission lifestyle.

The Katowice campus of the University of Silesia also hosts a group of researchers carrying out an air quality monitoring project, part of which includes sending scientists with measuring equipment up in a hot-air balloon.

Project coordinator Mariola Jablonska says the researchers are primarily trying to find out where most of the pollution originates and how large particles of pollutants are, as different-sized particles pose varying degrees of danger when breathed in.

ITN News Editor
By ITN News Editor November 6, 2018 15:42
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