The Mayor of Kraków has called on the regional authorities in Małopolska to support plans to ban the burning of solid fuel, in a bid to tackle the deadly smog that hangs over the city – but has refused to give his full backing to an English language campaign by a group of activists determined to push the issue right to the front of the public agenda.
In a letter to the Marshal of Małopolska, Jacek Majchrowski said that a resolution would be the first of its kind in Poland, and would require ‘discussion and good co-operation’. The law as it stands means that any such ban on burning solid fuels in Kraków would have to be passed by the regional assembly.
However, Mr Majchrowski pledged personal support in preparing the ban and developing provisions for those who had only solid-fuel stoves in their homes. The Mayor admitted that a ban would require public assistance, offering financial support to residents who would have to upgrade their heating systems. Although some cash is already available for those wishing to replace their systems, an outright ban would oblige public funding on a massive scale.
Kraków’s ‘smog watch’ group, Krakowski Alarm Smogowy, cites World Health Organisation figures which show that the city is eighth worst in the world for air pollution caused by tiny but deadly PM 2.5 particles. It comes in at 145th place out of 1,100 for the smaller PM 10 pollution. Both are causes of cancer, asthma and other medical conditions.
Krakowski Alarm Smogowy took figures from air monitoring stations in Kraków (available for public viewing at monitoring.krakow.pios.gov.pl/iseo/, and showed that even on an average winter day, with furnaces blasting soot and ash from the chimneys of many buildings, PM 10 levels could be three to five times higher than ‘safe’ levels.
Put into context, this means that the average Kraków resident smokes 2,500 cigarettes each year – even if they never light up, and the pollution causes between 300 and 600 deaths each year.
The organisation backs plans for an outright ban, saying that such a move would eliminate the smog problem in Kraków. But it also supports a ‘five year transition’ period, and measures to ensure that residents were not forced to face freezing winters without heating.
Krakowski Alarm Smogowy also launched a poster, cinema and online campaign, featuring images of animals and children in protective masks and the slogans ‘No Smoging Please’ and ‘We want to breathe’.
But Mr Majchrowski wrote in response to the campaign that it may dissuade tourists from bringing income to the city.
He wrote: “With all due respect to the activities of Krakówski Alarm Smogowy, and my recognition of their commitment to improving air quality, I still received news [about the posters] with very mixed feelings. My doubt is that such detail on the posters in the English language is in the interests of the inhabitants of the city, when we live largely from tourism in the city.
“If we promote our city as the most polluted in Europe, then we all lose.”
Mr Majchrowski argued that it might be more productive to organise a campaign to persuade people to stop burning rubbish and smoky fuels, and to agree to a replacement programme.
Pictures: Krakowski Alarm Smogowy
/* Style Definitions */
mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;