Krakow is a leader in combatting smog in the province. Recently, the city authorities have removed a record number of coal fired boilers; this does not mean that smog has been altogether eliminated. In the heating season, nearly 15% of the air-borne pollution in Krakow comes from the neighbouring municipalities. They have done very little to combat smog. Data suggest that Krakow is surrounded by more than 21 thou. coal fired boilers.
Back in 2018, Krakow exceeded the air pollution norms on more than one hundred days a year. In 2020, that number of smog days dropped to 64. Recently, the city authorities have removed more than 14,600 coal fired boilers. What is more, 1 September 2019 marked a total ban on coal.
Paweł Ścigalski, proxy of the mayor of Krakow in charge of clean air, emphasises the fact that several hundred locations are waiting for the exchange. “The residents know perfectly well that they mustn’t use coal or wood but they continue to do that. There have been cases of the municipal police’s repeated intervention in specific locations. It is clear though that recently, the residents have learnt to respond to polluting the air by notifying the respective services”, the official explains.
“In these operations, the turning point was introduction of a ban on solid fuels, the most restrictive regulation of this type in Poland, which has accelerated the exchange of coal fired boilers but also, it has raised the residents’ awareness of the fact that there is no tolerance of burning substances which contribute most to air pollution. Consequently, Krakow has become a herald of change and a model to follow by other Polish cities”, Ścigalski adds.
“In fact, we have managed to eliminate coal fired boilers in the city. This is a huge success. However, traffic-related pollution is more problematic. The situation in Krakow streets is getting worse. The number of cars registered in Krakow is growing”, says Tomasz Borejza, a journalist representing SmogLab, operating in the Krakow Smog Alarm.
“In the past 2.5 years, traffic has increased by approx. 10% which translates into jams and the amount of fumes that the residents need to breathe. Clearly, bans and restrictions do not suffice to alleviate the problem. What we need is a comprehensive policy to help the city get control of spatial planning, development of public transport and inclusion of the agglomeration into problem solving. In the face of the developments and the growing number of estates bereft of access to basic infrastructure, it is hard to remain optimistic”, he adds.
“The city is not an island, the condition of the air is affected by a plethora of factors, including the rate of exchanging the boilers outside the capital city of Lesser Poland”, says Ścigalski.
In the heating season, nearly 15% of the air-borne pollution in Krakow comes from the neighbouring municipalities. They have done very little to combat smog. Data suggest that Krakow is surrounded by more than 21,000 coal fired boilers.
The municipalities around Krakow need to exchange coal boilers by the end of 2022 as stipulated in an anti-smog act adopted by the regional council.
Liszki is the leading municipality with respect to the number of the exchanged boilers versus all the existing coal boilers with more than 10% old boilers eliminated from the area.
Meanwhile, in the towns and villages located near Krakow, the number of applications for subsidies on exchanging boilers is growing. In total, 2,489 applications have been submitted: 1,249 as part of the Clean Air Programme and 1,240 subscribed to municipal programmes.
“Krakow decided to grant financial support to the Krakow Metropolis municipalities because, following migrant emissions, without concrete activities around the city area, air pollution will plague the inhabitants of the entire region, including residents of Krakow. As a result of this cooperation, direct information campaigns will be financed together with controlling fumes by means of drones and subsidies for remuneration paid to individuals who reach out to the residents directly and encourage them to exchange stoves”, Ścigalski explained.
One can assume that, if the rate of submitting applications for subsidies on exchanging stoves stays on the same level, municipalities Zielonki, Liszki, Wielka Wieś and Skawina will be the first to handle the exchange.
“This is a good sign that the number of people interested in exchanging ineffective, old boilers is growing. We are hoping that the range of change will be affected by the campaigns planned by the municipalities”, says Andrzej Guła from the Polish Smog Alarm. “Let’s not lose sight of the task at hand: the region needs to remove almost 22,00 coal fired boilers. I wonder about the intensions of the local authorities in municipalities like Wieliczka and Biskupice where less than 1% of coal boilers have been exchanged? The law says that as of 1 January 2023, use of old, coal boilers will be forbidden and punishable”, he added.
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