Sofia to criminalise burning of waste

Air in Sofia hazardous for days


The air in Sofia has been hazardous for days. Sites with real-time data like show the concentration of fine dust particles in the air exceed the safe limit several times over and is way above the 100-mark. The European Commission has defined 50µg/m3 as the safety threshold for PM10.

This week the municipal government introduced a bill to criminalize the burning of waste. The measure will affect the poorest communities in neighborhoods such as Krasna Polyana where people use waste to load into their heating stoves. The new bill provides for up to two years in prison and fines between 2000 and 5000 leva. Mayor Yordanka Fandakova said that over the past week alone authorities have made 60 checks and issued 20 fines. In her words, however, the fines have little to no effect and so the city government will take the issue further and criminalize the practice.

The ruling party GERB (both national and municipal) first brought forward the idea last winter. Its champion was the current Justice Minister Danail Kirilov. After January, when winter’s end was closer, GERB seemed to have forgot about the idea and fell silent on the issue.

During the winter the air in Sofia is often dangerous. Last year the municipal government adopted a single measure for mitigating the effects of air pollution: the so-called green ticket. Th municipal government may administer cheaper public transport - one lev instead of 1,60 - on days with dangerous levels of fine dust particle concentration. The measure, however could be enforced only if the state-owned official sensors record a PM10 concentration averaging at least 200 µg/m3 over a 24-hour period.

According to official data 40% of the air pollution is caused by household heating solution which involve burning wood and coal. The municipal government has pledged to help replace 20’000 coal-burning stoves (out of all 55’000 throughout the capital city) with cleaner solutions over a period of three years. Households may apply through special programs to change their coal-based heating with electric, central heating, gas or other type of heating option.

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