City may ban older cars in the center

Prague is looking at several measures to reduce smog

The city is contemplating banning old cars with high emissions from the wider city center in an effort to improve air quality. Only cars that are benign to the atmosphere would be permitted.

This is one solution Prague city councilors are contemplating in response to the smog situation that developed this winter. Whether the low-emission zones would be in effect all year or just in winter and what the exact boundaries would be are still up for discussion.

Prague Deputy Mayor Petr Dolínek (ČSSD) will organize a meeting in April with city district representatives to discuss the low-emission zone idea. Some city districts in the past objected to the idea as they lacks alternative routes for cars. “Some time has passed since we last discussed this solution. We therefore want to discuss this possibility with the city districts that were previously against it,” Dolínek said, according to Pražský deník.

Prague 6 is one of districts that has objected in the past. A study by Czech Technical University in Prague (ČVUT) cited by Prague Deputy Mayor Petra Kolínská (Greens) said that if local residents were granted an exemption the ban would have no effect, and if local residents were not excluded then it would be a harsh measure as many would not be able to use their cars near their homes.

Kolínská also said that low-emission zones have been introduced in Germany, Austria and Denmark and they had little effect. She added that this did not mean the Greens would necessarily oppose the ban, but there were more effective measures.

Another measure to reduce pollution being considered is a toll for driving in the city center. A new regulatory plan should be completed in September.

Smog warnings were issued in Prague several times this winter, and the city had even considered making public transportation free to reduce the number of cars in the center. A smog situation is announced if at least half of the monitoring stations find 100 micrograms of harmful particles per cubic meter for 12 hours, and no decline is foreseen in he next 24 hours.

Under more severe conditions, some industries can be shut down. 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.

Smog is more common in winter but can occur in any season if there is a temperature inversion and a lack of wind. People in the affected areas should take some precautions, especially people with chronic respiratory conditions, heart disease, the elderly and young children. People should avoid physical stress associated with rapid respiratory rate.

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