Current Affairs Towns get new powers in fighting air pollution
The lower house of parliament on Tuesday gave final approval to a bill which will provide local administrations with the means to fight air pollution more effectively. In the event of a smog alert mayors can order the biggest pollutants to scale down production, ban high-emissions cars from city centres and scrap toll on ring roads in order to reduce the amount of traffic. Town mayors and environment activists had long been pushing for the amendment and Radio Prague asked Vojtěch Kotecký from Friends of the Earth how effective he thinks it will be in practice.
“The concept of low-emission zones which will provide local councillors with powers to regulate car traffic at times of heavy pollution is a tool which has been successfully used in other European countries. In Stockholm, Sweden, this concept cut the amount of dust particles in the air –which present a major health hazard – by 40 percent and we hope that this new law will bring similar changes in the Czech Republic as well.”
So you are expecting it to have a significant impact?
“It will definitely provide the city council and town mayors with a substantial new tool to reduce air pollution. However it will be primarily up to local administrations whether - and how well - they use it.”
Would you have gone further – what else needs to be done to improve the quality of the environment? Industrialized cities like Ostrava have a serious problem with air pollution that urgently needs to be addressed.
“Actually the law includes another important clause –it will give the government additional powers in regulating industrial pollution in the most heavily polluted industrial areas of the country – such as the city of Ostrava – so it will help in this respect, but it is only part of the solution. We need additional major changes to the air pollution law and it is very encouraging to see that the Ministry of Environment has already presented an overhaul of the respective legislation to Parliament and we expect a crucial debate on it in the course of the next few months.”
“There are several important changes in the pipeline, but what is pivotal is that the new legislation should substantially increase air-pollution fees so that big companies and big polluters will be motivated to invest in cleaner technologies in order to avoid paying higher fees for pollution.”