Industrial air pollution: what can I change in my city
What tools are available to ordinary people to understand what they breathe? Rubryka analyzed together with experts
Under quarantine conditions, we're recommended to walk in the fresh air. But what can you do if the city air is so polluted that you'll get no benefit from walking? Cities such as Kryvyi Rih, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia are considered the most polluted cities in Ukraine. As part of the "Industrial Air Pollution in Ukraine 2020" online conference, speakers from Ukraine and the Czech Republic explained how to check the air quality in the city, and, most importantly, how to influence the situation.
How to check the air quality?
The representative of the Czech organization "Arnika" spoke about the air pollution studies carried out in Ukraine in 2018. The analysis made it possible to initiate new projects and changes that will make environmental legislation more rigorous for enterprises emitting air pollution. In the same year, a project was launched creating a network of air quality monitoring devices, now installed throughout Ukraine.
There are private air monitoring resources to check air quality in Ukraine. We can check the pollution index on the Clean Air for Ukraine website. The filter shows how much fine and coarse dust is in the air at the moment, the content of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and the level of humidity, noise, and temperature.
There are alternative websites providing more extensive information both about the air in Ukraine and around the world. On the SaveEcoBot website, a more user-friendly interface shows how favorable the air is, quantifying its pollution from zero to 300+. Monitoring stations are installed by residents of cities, independent projects, organizations, and local governments, such as Save Dnipro, luftdaten.info, Eco City, AirVisual, Air Pollution, Kyiv Smart City, LUN Misto Air, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Center, European Radiological Data Exchange System.
How to influence the environmental situation in your city?
The main air pollutants are large industrial enterprises. In Zaporizhzhia, it's Zaporizhstal; in Kyiv, it's Darnytska CHPP; in Kharkiv, it's Koksokhim. Such businesses should announce information on air emissions in local newspapers, based on which citizens can go to court to impose a ban. But few people read such ads, because printed newspapers, in fact, are a rudiment. Therefore, many enterprises manage to avoid responsibility for illegal activities, because an advertisement noticed by no one won't be a reason for a public "protest."
In addition, wide publicity of the enterprise activities polluting the environment can help so that residents of a settlement or district are aware of the situation. The public can involve local governments.
You can also file complaints and appeals to the regulatory authorities; record violations in photos and videos, save data from available sensors measuring air. You can also submit inquiries about the concentration of harmful substances in soil, air, and water to local authorities and departments of the Ministry of Environment via the hotline or online. Please note that only data provided by the regulatory authorities or the company itself will be considered evidence in court.
In addition, citizens can participate in lawmaking projects, tracking initiatives, and discussions about them on the website of the Ministry of Environment, submit and support petitions. An example is "Clean Air of Ukraine," which proposes to introduce a state air monitoring system, introduce an open register of information on quality air, and renew environmental decision-making procedures.
The Verkhovna Rada is currently considering draft laws 3417, 3418, 3526, aimed at improving the quality of the work of environmental services. They suggest increasing fines and expanding the powers of inspection services. For example, one of the draft laws proposes to allow carrying out unscheduled inspections immediately at the request of residents who have noticed harmful emissions at the enterprise. However, permitting inspections won't solve the problem, as the current legislation has gaps. Since violating environmental norms is an administrative violation, inspection services draw up protocols on violations. But the mistakes they make when compiling administrative protocols make it possible for violators to avoid responsibility. According to the deputy's assistant, such mistakes are often made on purpose. As a result, the efforts spent on verification are negated, and the problem isn't solved. Serhii Shtepa also spoke about a law draft that would criminalize air pollution. It proposes to introduce a rather harsh punishment, imprisonment for 5 years.
Thus, the responsibility for a clean environment lies with each of us. We can influence the situation, but only together, showing an active civil position.