After at least two weeks of heavy pollution in Sofia, the local government administered the single measure it has in its toolkit to mitigate air pollution this Friday. The air in the capital city has been dangerous for weeks. The site airsofia.info, which collects data from private measuring sensors, has been registering around 100 PM10 µg/m³ throughout the city, sometimes reaching 200 µg/m³. The maximum concentration of PM10 considered safe is 50 µg/m³.
Last year the municipal government passed the so-called ‘green ticket’ for the public transportation system. The city governments developed the measure as an incentive for people who normally drive to opt for public transport on days with heavy pollution. The ticket is just under 40% cheaper than the regular ticket (1 lev instead of 1,6 leva). Implementing the green ticket can only be done if the official municipal sensors must register a daily average of the staggering 200 µg/m³.
Another measure the municipality has been applying is making buffer parking near subway stations free. But the results have been questionable at best.
A few weeks ago in an effort to show to the public that the local government is working to clean the air, it proposed a controversial bill to criminalize the burning of waste. It reasoned that fines and administrative sanctions it was imposing were ineffective. Which is understandable as the people who resort to burning waste are the poorest and most vulnerable communities living in any of the several ghettoes in the city. Although waste burning is definitely producing a lot of pollution, it could not account for much of the city’s problem. In addition, even if this government puts poor people in jail, how would this translate into clean air remains a mystery. Because the government would still have failed to tackle the problem of how to heat these homes in the winter. Ironically, Yordanka Fandakova who won the whooping 85% of votes in one ghetto just a few months ago, now employs a PR tactic to blame the bad air in the city on these same voters.
All these measure are a smokescreen (excuse the pun). Because the government refuses or is incapable of making real steps to mitigate the smog. Like making the public transport actually reliable: on time and in reasonable intervals. Because 40% cheaper transport would not make up lost time in the hours for anyone, who values it. Waiting for the air to become deadly to cut 60 stotinki off a public transport ticket is cynical. As is Fandakova’s claim that her idea of throwing the poorest members of the community in jail is an unpopular measure. On the contrary: racist measures are popular any day. An unpopular measure would not target poor people. It would ban cars from the city center for example. Or make people switch to cleaner heating alternatives, especially the larger portion who can afford it.
Instead, as always, the city government relies on the same three ingredients. PR stunts, wind and waiting for winter to be over.
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