According to official data, there are two main sources of air pollution in Sofia and throughout the country, these are domestic heating and transport, as transport is a year-round source of pollution. Domestic heating is only in winter. With regard to domestic heating, the only meaningful measure for which there is funding is the replacement of stoves. There are millions allocated under European programs for replacement of 20,000 stoves in Sofia Municipality, so far, almost a year and a half after the start of the whole procedure, there are only 5,000 applications.
The municipality must set an extremely ambitious information campaign as the first priority for the next year, so that by the end of next year 20,000 stoves will be replaced for sure and even more resources will be needed for more stoves that need to be replaced. This was commented to 3e-news.net by the municipal councilor and one of the founders of the Save Sofia movement, Boris Bonev. This happened after the Sofia City Court convicted Sofia at first instance for inaction in failing to deal with the dirty air following a lawsuit filed by citizens and NGOs.
With regard to transport, the big problem is that for 7-8 years now, the measures that need to be taken for faster, more convenient transport, which will make people choose public transport, and not their personal car are practices are well known from all over the world, but the Sofia Municipality does not want to implement them on the scale it should have.
The most important thing is that public transport is the preferred form of transportation. This will happen if you are fast and regular. It will be fast and regular if there are enough bus lanes, if there are separate transport corridors for trams and buses, if there are more lines that come at shorter intervals, Bonev commented.
Regarding the other alternative, namely bicycle transport, we currently have bicycle lanes that are here and there, they are not connected, they are not safe. It has been scientifically proven that having more people to use cycling is when the infrastructure is safe and connected.
In the next year, Sofia Municipality must finally implement the city's cycling plan, adopted half a decade ago, and implement it. There is money, every year they invest in the budget for bike lanes, there are ready-made projects and a plan adopted by the Municipal Council, it just has to be implemented. But in order to fulfill it, we must realize that there can be no dozens of lanes for cars, for public transport, for bicycle transport and sidewalks. Space is limited and must be fairly distributed among road users, not just cars, as is currently the case on most Sofia boulevards.
We must realize that the prioritization of public transport, bicycle traffic, pedestrian traffic, the creation of new pedestrian streets will be at the expense of road transport. But this is the only way to live in a greener, safer, more pleasant city without traffic jams as at the moment, despite the investments in the subway, Bonev added.
The most absurd thing is that there is no city in which to work for public transport, for bicycle transport, for bicycle transport and this leads to a drop in the rating of politicians. Here, however, in Sofia Municipality, this is not understood because there is no long-term thought. Do not think beyond one term, moreover, do not think for more than a year ahead. The indirect benefits cannot be seen and I will give you an example. It has been proven that where there are pedestrian streets, business improves, turnover increases, neighborhoods become livelier, more pleasant to live. Here, however, when we talk about pedestrian gutters, we are talking about the exact opposite, how this would hit the business, because there would be no way for people to park their cars. This dissonance between facts, data and science and the way of thinking points to a situation in which Sofia is an extremely unpleasant city to live in quality of life.
It is necessary to introduce a ban on the burning of wood and coal, in general on solid fuels, which is an issue that needs to be addressed at national level. Encouraging people to choose alternatives is done by implementing such programs to replace stoves. Aid for the energy poor should be aid to electricity or pellet bills or for gas, electricity or other environmentally friendly heating methods, and not for oil, coal and wood, the municipal councilor added.