An unusually warm winter has worsened the air pollution problem in the city of Bucharest, Romania’s capital.
The people living there have taken action to help their community deal with the issue.
Last month, a group of more than 500 people worked with a nongovernmental organization, or NGO, to put up a pollution sensor in the city’s Kiseleff Park. The device will identify when the air is safe for children to play outside.
Claudia Florescu takes her four-year-old son Toma to Kiseleff Park often. She helped establish the group two years ago after her son and other young park visitors started experiencing breathing problems.
The park is between two of Bucharest’s busiest roads. The air quality there is poor, but Florescu says it is the only outdoor space close to home.
“We realized pollution levels in our neighborhood are sharply above limits,” she told the Reuters news agency. “This is where our children are playing, this is where their childhood is happening and it has made us increasingly concerned, it is the only green space we can use in our neighborhood,” she added.
Bucharest’s Institute for Pneumology reports that cases of breathing diseases in the capital have tripled over the last five years.
Two years ago the European Commission sent Romania to the European Court of Justice in connection with the nation’s high PM10 levels - particles found in dust and smoke. The court is set to rule on the case soon.
NGOs and private companies have created independent air observation systems to study Bucharest’s air quality. The systems show small particle pollution in Bucharest this winter is more than three times above European limits.
Heavy traffic, fossil fuel use, building projects and waste storage are the biggest causes of city air pollution.
The Centre for Sustainable Policies Ecopolis is a local NGO. It and other environmental groups said the eight government-owned pollution sensors in Bucharest are not enough. Two of them fail to report data on a usual basis, the groups said.
Ecopolis director Oana Neneciu said, “We believe the situation is dire in Bucharest, but even worse is that this information isn’t easily accessible to citizens.
“People don’t know what they are breathing,” she added.
In December, Ecopolis launched AerLive.ro, an air pollution website for Bucharest. It reports information from 13 sensors placed around the city, including the one in Kiseleff Park.
Romania’s Environment Minister Costel Alexe has said the state will improve its observation systems. He added the ministry will work with Ecopolis and other systems such as Airly and uRADMonitor to combine their data into a user-friendly system.
“We’re on the same side,” deputy environment minister Mircea Fechet told protesters at an anti-pollution demonstration last month. “We want to find the ways to better know the air quality in Romania.”
Madalina Scarlat is with Friday for Future Romania, the youth environmental activist group that organized the protest. She said, “We just want to be able to breathe … We will stay on the street until things start changing.”
I’m Pete Musto.
Luiza Ilie reported this story for the Reuters news agency. Pete Musto adapted it for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.
Words in This Story
sensor – n. a device that detects or senses things like heat, light, sound or motion and then reacts to it in a given way
realize(d) – v. to understand or become aware of something
particle(s) – n. a very small piece of something
dire – adj. very bad
accessible – adj. able to be used or obtained