Special Report on the Right to Clean Air (Atmospheric Air Quality in Georgia)
On 26 February 2019, Public Defender Nino Lomjaria presented a special report on atmospheric air pollution in Georgia and talked about the importance of the right to clean air, problems in this direction and and the ways of solving the problems.
For the purpose of preparing the report, the Public Defender's Office studied the national legislation, its effectiveness and compliance with international standards, identified the major harmful substances that cause air pollution and their sources, evaluated the atmospheric air pollution monitoring system and response mechanisms.
The case study showed that despite the positive steps recently taken in the country, the protection of atmospheric air remains a challenge, which is caused by many circumstances:
- It is problematic that there is a lack of information about the impact of air pollution on human health in the country, the main reason of which is said to be the existent air quality monitoring system. More precisely, air pollution is studied by 10 observation facilities located in 6 cities, which cannot provide information about the whole country; there is no integrated modeling system; no concentration of all harmful substances, norms of which are regulated by the legislation, is measured. In this regard, it is important that the Center for Disease Control and Public Health works to activate a programme aimed at assessing the impact of air pollution on the health of population
- Apart from harmful substances, such as sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and carbon monoxide (CO), dust particulates (PM10, PM2.5) are also very hazardous and affect human health more seriously than any other substance. Ultimately, excess of these substances increase the risk of stroke, tumors, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, as well as diseases related to liver, kidneys and lungs
- The situation in the transport sector is aggravated by the annual increase in the number vehicles in the country and the high number of old vehicles (more than 45% of vehicles are older than 20 years). Full technical inspection has been launched since 2019, but it does not provide for the control of the existence of major pollutants, and mainly nitrogen dioxide and solid particulates, in the exhaust gas, which is a significant gap of the system
- The Ministry of Internal Affairs does not have an effective mechanism for detecting the vehicles that have passed periodic technical inspection as a result of one-time superficial repair, but still emit hazardous gas
- The municipal transport is gradually replaced by new vehicles in the capital, however, it should be noted that buses use diesel fuel, the quality of which canot meet the EU standards and thus creates a threat of air pollution
- As for the monitoring of fuel quality, samples were examined only in 9 petrol stations in 2016 and 18 - in 2017, which are very low numbers. As for 2018, despite the fact that 143 petrol stations were checked, only petrol samples were taken from 136 of them and only lead level was checked in them. Thus, neither the last year's monitoring can be considered as an effective form of control
- Another cause of air pollution is solid particulates produced by demolition, drilling, welding, concreting, sand, spread of dust from uncovered construction sites, etc. It is vitally important to take appropriate steps in this direction in the nearest future and to strictly regulate the process on the one hand and to impose strict responsibilities for the violation of the rules on the other hand.
It is indicated in the special report that the legal framework in the field of air protection does not fully reflect the obligations undertaken by Georgia under the Association Agreement with the European Union. No effective leverages of the prevention or reduction of air pollution caused by industrial activities have yet been introduced. The main sources of atmospheric air pollution (industry, energetics, construction, agriculture) are not subject to effective environmental regulations and the sanctions in the field of air protection cannot prevent continuous violation of the regulations.
Despite the fact that the risks can be reduced by green urban spaces, green area per capita is about 8 m2 in Kutaisi, 5-6 m2 - in Batumi and Rustavi, while it is unknown in Tbilisi. It should be noted that green area per capita is more than 25 m2 in the developed European countries.
The Public Defender of Georgia has recommended the Parliament, Government, Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, Environment Supervision Department, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Tbilisi Municipality to take measures aimed at reducing and preventing atmospheric air pollution both at the legislative and political levels in a timely manner.