Prague gives up on new smog rules

The proposals would have had very little effect and caused traffic problems

Prague City Hall will not be issuing new smog regulations. A working group examining the issue gave a negative opinion on the recommended changes.

The city decided not to continue further preparation and implementation of new anti-smog rules. The proposals included, for example, restrictions for cars with odd or even license plates on alternating days and prohibiting trucks over six tons in the case of smog situations.

The rules would have led to an excessive risk of traffic collapse and at the same time not achieve the desired effect of reducing smog, the working group concluded.

“We made a great deal of preparation and we are sorry for this result. But it does not make sense to introduce measures that would have no effect, and that could make the situation could be worse. All the same, it is clear that Prague must make some long-term systematic measures to improve air quality so as to avoid smog situations,” City Councilor Jana Plamínková (STAN) said.

Based on the results of a feasibility study, opinions and comments from city districts, ministries, the Czech Police and Municipal Police, several fundamental problems were identified.

The measures would have a low impact on improving air quality.

There was an absence of sufficient alternative routes to get vehicles away from main roads as well as insufficient capacity on public transport and suburban transport, and insufficient parking capacity. Also the rules would have been difficult to enforce from an organizational standpoint.

Until these issues can resolved, the city will look for alternate solutions to smog.

The most problematic component of pollution of the Prague air is dust particles, which act as carriers of carcinogenic substances. Carbon monoxide blocks the transfer of oxygen in the blood, nitrogen oxides increase the likelihood of respiratory diseases, aldehydes increase the risk of cancer, and, especially in the summer, precursors of ground-level ozone cause respiratory complications for children and elderly people.

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.

Under the current regulations, 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.

A 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.

In the summer, the city launched a short-lived promotion to have people leave their cars home one day a week and instead take time for a beer with co-workers, but it was more of a public relations move than a practical solution.

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