Human health must not be threatened by polluted air, resonates from the Conference in Ostrava

19.11.2018 - OSTRAVA
Martin Skalský (left) and Jindřich Petrlík from Arnika during a press conference
PHOTO: Majda Slámová / Arnika

Experts, politicians and civil activists from the Europe and former USSR countries are discussing in the Czech Republic the ways how to improve the air quality (1). Air pollution belongs to the most serious ecological problems of these days – it causes the premature death of four and half million people per year (2), the heavy industry is largely guilty of it. Today´s international conference wants to promote experience exchange between people who push forward specific measures. Ostrava region can serve as a good example of the success. Even though it still remains one of the most polluted places of the European Union, air pollution has decreased by about a half in comparison to the situation before 1989.

Lecturers from the Czech Republic, Poland, Croatia, Italy, Armenia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and the Bosnia and Herzegovina came to the “Fighting Air Pollution in the Industrial Cities of Europe” conference in Ostrava (3). Under the auspices of Jarmila Uvírová, vice-governor of the Moravian-Silesian Region and Kateřina Šebestová, deputy mayor of the City of Ostrava, non-governmental organisations Arnika (CZ) and Ecoaction (UA) organised the conference. The event is held in cooperation with the University of Ostrava and is organised thanks to the support of the Transformational Cooperation Program of The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Global Greengrants Fund, the Moravian-Silesian Region and the city of Ostrava.

The connection among six participating countries is the activity of international giant ArcelorMittal in their regions. Besides other things, participants will compare how the ecological and social responsibility of the steelworks differs from state to state. ArcelorMittal Ostrava will present their investments to environmental protection; afterwards participants will have a possibility to take a look at the modern technology in operation of Třinecké železárny (Třinec Iron and Steel Works).        

Martin Skalský, Chairman of Arnika Association and Head of Citizens Support Centre: “In many countries, citizens can´t get access to true information about the current state of the environment. In many places, the level of pollution isn´t even credibly measured. The problem is also enforceability of law, corruption, dysfunctional state administration, lack of interest from politicians or huge influence of the industry representatives. Arnika wants to propose its experience gained during last three decades in the Czech Republic to all civil activist in the countries, where the situation is much more complicated. We support their campaigns for better state of the environment, because pollution has no limits. Providing solutions to global ecological problems is doable only thanks to international cooperation. The aim of the conference is also to define common issues and the ways to enforce wider and more radical changes not only at national level."

MUDr. Radim Šrám, DrSc., Research worker at the Institute of Experimental Medicine, Czech Academy of Sciences: “During the last decade, the spectrum of air pollutants in the Czech republic has changed the most. In the northern part of country, the main polluter used to be local furnaces. But thanks to big state investments into gas installation and technological modernization of power stations, the situation has considerably improved. In Moravian-Silesian region, which is on my radar for a long period, the situation is diverse. For example, in city district Poruba and Karviná, the concentration of benzo(a)pyrene is decreasing, but in city district Radvanice – Bártovice, the concentration is on the increase, which is probably the impact of the  industrial activity. Overall the level of air pollution in the Czech Republic is permanently increased, which can be shown to cause genetic damage. Unfortunately it will have an impact on future generations as well.“

Jarmila Uvírová, vice-governor of the Moravian-Silesian Region: “I'm glad that this conference takes place right here in Moravian-Silesian Region, because it is an example of the region, which successfully copes with industrial history and related ecological burden. Even though we still can't say that all air pollution problems have been solved, I'm happy to report that we are on a right track, which could serve as an example worth following to other regions. Investments to ecological technologies in the industry and local idea – boiler subsidy – proved that during last fifteen years, the amount of emissions from solid pollutants decreased by about a half. But we still move forward, we want to replace all unsuitable boilers in households, support ecologisation of industry and transport. We fight against bad habits, prejudice and laziness; unfortunately the landscape of our region and bad dispersion conditions are playing against us. After all, I'm still convinced that our efforts and determination will bring true change to Moravian-Silesian Region and moving forward, it will no longer be called as polluted and dirty city as it used to be the case till these days.“

Mgr. Kateřina Šebestová, deputy mayor of the City of Ostrava: “Air quality in Ostrava is significantly improving for a long period. Current emission of dust from industrial (re)sources has decreased to 5 % of the state from thirty years ago. Despite all that, we still don't breathe quality air. There´s no simple solution for such problem, air pollution is caused by several factors. When speaking on behalf of the city, there´s not much that we can do against cross-border emissions from Poland and “unfortunate” geomorphology of Ostrava Basin, but we progressively reduce the impact of other factors. I give you right away an example, by planting 550 thousands of trees and bushes, originally “black” Ostrava was transformed to one of the greenest cities in the Czech Republic. We significantly ecologize city transportation system, we contribute to citizens of Ostrava for replacing boilers and grant them interest-free loans; we increased the budget of child benefit intended for mountain trips up to 22 million crowns. We multiplied road cleaning activities, we are working on tens of projects for green space expansions in the city or revitalizations of existing ones, and we are building cycle ways and promoting alternative ways of transportation through many events during the year. We had a study elaborated on potential launching of low-emission zones; we are now considering the possibility of introducing new transport measures besides the smog measures. There are a number of different projects and measures to improve the air in Ostrava, and I believe the results will be known in a few years."

doc. Ing. Petr Jančík, Ph.D., Head of Department of Environmental Protection in Industry, Faculty of Metallurgy and Materials Engineering, Technical University of Ostrava: “Besides the emissions from various sources, the weather itself has significant impact on air pollution in our region. If we “remove” this influence, we can see that during last ten years there's a improvement trend of all significant pollutants at all monitoring stations, except the one in Radvanice – Bártovice. However, even there we can still see a positive development of suspended particles. It is caused mainly by dust off investment of important technologies. If this positive trend is to continue and benzo(a)pyrene pollution is to be reduced, it will be necessary to invest much more into technology, as well as to its maintenance and operation. Impact of potential actions will be shown by the Aair quality management system, created within international project Air Tritia. It is also necessary to think about the timeline of long promoted restructuring of heavy industry in Ostrava region.“

RNDr. Jindřich Petrlík, Head of Arnika's Toxics and Waste Programme: “It's the fact, that for the majority of the Czech Republic, the biggest source of pollution is  either car transportation or local furnaces, where the coal hasn't been replaced yet by less problematic type of heating. Ostrava Region is one of the exceptions where substantial source of pollution still results from industrial activities. People from similarly polluted places with huge metallurgical factories came to the conference in Ostrava. On the conference, we will present the importance of pollution registers and how they could be used as non-violent tool to push industry to reduce the emissions of harmful substances. Of course, such measure doesn't solve the problem, but promotes the power of available information. Unfortunately the existence of such registers is still not commonly used in many countries and big multinational companies make use of it; in some cases we can say that they even misuse it."

Above mentioned benzo(a)pyrene is aromatic organic substance, resulting from combustion of organic material as a by-product of many industrial processes. Inhalation or direct contact with this toxic substance threatens healthy development of unborn foetus, increases the risk of cancer, in adulthood increases the occurrence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney failure and obesity.

Notes for editors:

(1) The conference takes place from Monday to Wednesday at the Auditorium of the University of Ostrava. Everyone can join the conference for free after completing the registration form. For more information about the program, click here.

(2)  Air pollution causes every year the death of more than four million people around the world due to stroke, heart disease, lung cancer or chronic respiratory diseases. Approximately 91% of world´s population lives in places where the levels of air pollution exceed the limits of World Health Organization (WHO). Even though the problem affects both, developed as well as developing countries, in general, states with low- and middle-income are the most threatened ones – it applies mainly to regions of the Western Pacific and south-eastern Asia. To find out more about the risks of low air quality, click on WHO page here.

(3) Should you be interested in interview with a particular lecturer, we are more than happy to organise face-to-face meeting or phone call including interpretation service. The complete list of participants and their profiles could be found here.

Translated by: Iveta Palúchová

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