TBILISI/PRAGUE - Georgia is on the way to have an effective air pollution monitoring system. However, citizens and experts alike lack reliable data on pollution in the vast majority of the country that is not covered by professional monitoring stations. Those are highlights of a new study, published by non-governmental organizations Green Pole (Georgia) and Arnika (Czech Republic) in cooperation with the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (1). In Tbilisi itself, according to the World Health Organization, 3774 people die prematurely every year as a consequence of air pollution (2), (3).
“Georgia is on the right track by gradually building its air quality monitoring network in line with the European standards. However, it is essential to increase the number of the monitoring stations and it is equally important to improve data analysis and verification - as well as its presentation to the public,” explains Jachym Brzezina, the head of the Air Quality Department of the Czech Hydrometeorologial Institute, Brno. The study is also financially supported by the Transition Promotion Program of the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.
Georgian Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture is currently operating only 7 up-to-date monitoring stations (4) and those are limited to the big cities. The territory of similarly large Czech Republic is covered by 200 professional air quality stations, located all over the country and categorised as urban, suburban, rural and traffic, background and industrial. This makes it possible to, for example, create maps and use chemical transport models to deduct concentrations all over the country.
The Georgian data on air quality are accessible online, which is a major step forward, and the threshold values are set for various different pollutants. However, for some agents no data is available in either current or the historical data section. While raw data is accessible to the public, annual reports are only available up to the year 2017 and the data from the last five years is not assessed.
Having online information is important, but the public also needs to be informed about aggregated data, especially in the context of its comparison with the limit values. Also, while historical figures can be downloaded, they are labelled as “not verified data”, even if several years old. It can therefore be recommended to make sure proper validation is done and the unverified data from the past is replaced with verified information.
According to Giorgi Japaridze, chairman of the NGO Green Pole, the state is also lacking mechanisms of reaction to the extreme air pollution. The state monitoring shows alarming concentrations of suspended particles (PM) in the air, that bind dangerous chemicals. Due to their tiny size, they can penetrate the human bloodstream and damage health. “Government did not introduce any measures to warn the citizens of Rustavi in the smog situations, or to protect their health by, for example, limiting operations of the factories that are the main sources of pollution,” Japaridze says.
To cover existing information gaps, Green Pole together with Arnika are manufacturing citizen air pollution monitoring network with stations being gradually installed all around Georgia. So far, twenty AirGE stations were installed in Tbilisi and Rustavi. The stations are manufactured and operated by volunteers to bring more detailed picture about what the inhabitants of country breathe.
(1) Assesment of the state air quality monitoring in Georgia
(2) World Health Organization (2022): Air quality database 2022
(3) World Health Organization (2021): Effects of the pollutants on human health
Arnika is a Czech NGO established in 2001. Its mission is to protect nature and a healthy environment for future generations at home and worldwide. We have long advocated for less waste and hazardous substances, living rivers and diverse nature, and the right of citizens to make decisions about the environment. You can find more information about Arnika HERE.
Green Pole is a Georgia-based NGO associated with the “My City Kills Me” civic movement. The movement aims to draw attention to the issue of severe air pollution in Georgian cities, especially Tbilisi, and its health consequences. You can find more information about Green Pole HERE.