Prague smog plan stalls

Driving rules most likely will remain unchanged before the election

Action on a plan to address smog in Prague will likely not take place until after the municipal elections in the fall. City Councilors failed to vote on the issue and instead asked for more data and research.

The proposal to fight smog involves restricting traffic based on odd and even license plate numbers. It also defines where cars can go and what kind of cars could be used during critical smog days in Prague. Freight vehicles of over six tons would not be allowed into the city at all.

Some changes have been made to the proposal, based on input from City Councilors. The requirement to shut down the engine when standing in place for more than a minute has disappeared, and the rules for license plates that do not include digits and the like have been specified.

There were still many unanswered questions, though. Whether the rules would apply to taxis and professional drivers was not clear. Vehicles using natural gas or other alternative fuels are not addressed specifically. Emergency situations and people who need to leave (as opposed to enter) the city are not covered.

The working group at Prague City Hall under the leadership of Jana Plamínková (Greens) has been working on the regulation for almost a year, and the rules were supposed to have taken effect this month already.

Deputy Mayor Petr Dolínek (ČSSD), responsible for transportation issues, told daily Lidové noviny that his party would not be supporting the legislation in its current form. He opposed the odd and even license idea and instead favors regulating cars based on their emission standards. He added that his party would put forward a counter-proposal if the original draft fails to eventually pass.

Mayor Adriana Krnáčová (ANO) also is not satisfied with the current draft. She said it had more questions than answers. She also wants more data such as pros and cons based on the experiences in other cities that have tried to reduce smog.

The requested study should take two months, and the complete draft with an organizational chart should be ready by the winter.

Deputy Mayor Petra Kolínská (Green) was critical of the delays and said that Dolínek had been invited several times to participate in the process. She added that the delays showed there was no will to make changes to the law.

“These are measures whose functionality is verified from abroad. We can only hope that smog will not come this year,” she said.

There were three smog alerts last winter, but none so far in the 2017–18 season.

The largest cause of air pollution in Prague is vehicle transport. The latest valid regulations are from 2012 and mainly address the exhaust fumes.

The risk of smog is greatest during the cold months.

A smog situation is declared when airborne particles of a size designated as PM10 exceed the limit of 100 micrograms per cubic meter for 12 hours and are not expected to drop below that threshold for 24 hours.

The regulation limiting some industry takes effect if at least half of the stations in a region over 12 hours show average concentrations of airborne particles exceeding a limit of 150 micrograms per cubic meter, and the situation is not expected to change for 24 hours.

A smog situation can be caused by cold temperatures, inversion and lack of wind. A temperature inversion is an increase in temperature with height, which creates an inversion layer. An inversion can lead to pollution being trapped close to the ground.

Numerous health problems have been linked to smog, It can be especially harmful to senior citizens, children, and people with heart and lung conditions such as emphysema, bronchitis, and asthma.

In the past, the city tried voluntary measures and encouraged people to use public transportation, but these moves had a negligible effect.

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