The Sofia city authorities have announced plans for wide-reaching measures to curb high levels of air pollution in the capital.
Bulgaria has the highest levels of PM10 concentrations in relation to the daily limit value in the EU-28, 2015 data from the European Environment Agency showed, and is the second-worst performer after Hungary in terms of the concentration of smaller PM2.5 particles.
Air pollution in Sofia is mainly caused by car emissions and smoke from wood and coal fires, a situation made worse by the city’s location among the foothills of the Vitosha mountains which means smog often lingers for days until the wind is in the right direction to blow it away.
The city authorities are now considering several measures to tackle the problem, which would be introduced depending on pollution level measurements, a statement said.
At a concentration of 51 to 100mg per cubic metre Sofia city hall is thinking of offering free parking at Metro stations around the city, and free tickets to those who chose to travel by Metro rather than driving into the centre.
When the concentration rises to 151 to 200mg per square metre the authorities will appeal to residents not to use their cars, and encourage owners of wood or coal burning stoves to switch to environmentally friendly fuel sources. It is also mulling a steep hike in parking fees in the city centre to double the usual level.
In extreme cases, the council is considering a complete ban on private transport and free public transport in the city centre.
Other actions put forward are improving waste management systems to reduce dust cart journeys in the city, building more speed bumps and introducing staggered hours for public sector employees to reduce rush hour traffic.
The measures, presented to the media by deputy mayor Ioana Hristova on December 12, are now being sent to the city council’s specialised commissions, and will later be put to a vote by the council.
Other cities in the region such as the Macedonian capital Skopje have also sought to discourage car use to reduce air pollution, which the World Health Organisation says is a serious problem in numerous East European cities.
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