Tens of thousands of Poles die from smog. Krakow prohibits the use of old heating boilers, and Warsaw prohibits the entry of old cars into the city center

Tens of thousands of Poles die from smog. Krakow prohibits the use of old heating boilers, and Warsaw prohibits the entry of old cars into the city center

Every year, up to 50,000 people die prematurely in Poland due to smog. The main source of pollution is non-ecological solid fuel boilers. Over the past five years, about a million such boiler units have been replaced with environmentally reliable analogues, but two and a half times more still remain in homes. Environmental activists say the subsidy program has run out and modernization will stop. The new Polish government promises to rectify the situation and is trying to unblock EU funds to achieve this goal. Meanwhile, Poland's big cities are planning to implement their own measures.

Every winter, Poland's big cities are covered in smog. People heat their homes with non-ecological boilers and therefore the air is saturated with pollutants. "In Poland, 78 percent of smog is created 'thanks' to family farms, that is, we ourselves 'prepare' it in our homes," says Piotr Siergiej, a representative of the organization Polski Alarm Smogowy.

Even five years ago, there were about 3.5 million old boilers in Polish homes, about a million of which were replaced thanks to the Clean Air subsidy program. But in January of this year, this source dried up. "The European Commission decided not to allocate any more funds due to the dispute with the former government about the rule of law," explains activist Siergiei.

Disappearing European money
Thus, up to 120 billion zlotys (4.83 billion euros) remain in Brussels to date, which Poland can use not only for replacing boilers. The new government wants to unlock this money. "Legitimate government is returning to Poland and they will pay us this amount. Moreover, it will happen very quickly", says the Prime Minister of Poland, Donald Tusk.

Warsaw claims that the European Union has frozen 5 billion euros for Poland
However, activists say this could take months and the country cannot afford to wait. "According to 2019 statistics, 178,000 people died prematurely from lung diseases in Europe. These people could still be alive today. About fifty thousand of them are Poles," says Slawomir Wysocki, director of the Pulmonology Clinic in Volitsa.

Prohibition of using old boilers
Taking into account the unfavorable statistics published by the University of Oxford, the big cities began to take measures themselves. In Krakow and its surroundings, a complete ban on the use of old boilers will come into force from May.

Warsaw will become the first Polish city to significantly restrict the entry of old cars into the city center from July. The ban applies to diesel-powered vehicles manufactured before 2006 and gasoline-powered vehicles manufactured before 1997. "This will affect only two percent of the cars in normal operation, but thanks to this, emissions into the atmosphere will be reduced by tens of percent," says Tomasz Dabi, director of the transport department of the Warsaw City Hall.

In Poland, after local thermal power plants, road transport is one of the main sources of environmental pollution in winter.

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