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Mayor Fandakova said that Sofia is ready to tackle 160 mud-zones in the city

Bulgarian mayors unite for clean air

Bulgarian mayors unite for clean air

The mayors want to collaborate with the national government because a lot of EU funding has been stalled this year

Today, the mayors of Bulgaria’s four biggest cities Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna and Burgas met with the Minster of the Environment and Water, Borislav Sandov, to discuss a new investment mechanism for bettering the air quality. The meeting was initiated by the four mayors to help them apply for funding through concrete municipal projects.

Minister Sandov explained that the new investment mechanism will be finalised when Bulgaria’s budget has passed through parliament.

He also stated that it will prioritise a couple of areas. One is projects for replacing fossil fuel heating systems in public buildings like schools and cultural institutions with sustainable alternatives. Another is greening public spaces between apartment buildings and a third is buying electric cleaning equipment for public spaces.

Mayors in waiting

All four mayors explained that they have projects ready and waiting to receive funding to get off the ground. This is even more true in 2022, as there is still no financial aid available through the EU’s Operational Programme Environment for the 2022-2027 period, as well as through the Recovery Plan for Europe.

Sofia’s mayor, Yordanka Fandakova, explained that the city is ready to launch a greening initiative into 160 public spaces in residential areas. These are the so-called ‘mud-zones’, small green spaces between apartment buildings that citizens use to park their cars, making them permanently muddy.

The ‘mud-zones’ are a permanent source of fine particulate matter – a potent pollutant in the city. Last year, local authorities targeted 57 ‘mud-zones’ through the municipal budget.

A drop in pollution levels across the board

Last year there were a few landmark developments in terms of air quality in Bulgaria. One was the fact that a citizen-led organisation was able to win a court case against Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second-largest city. The court case was about dangerous levels of air pollution and it dragged on for 11 years going as far as the Supreme Court of Cassation.

The second was another court case in a similar vein, this time against city authorities in Sofia, the capital. After local authorities lost the case before the regional court, Mayor Fandakova announced that the city will not appeal the ruling and waste further taxpayer money. Instead, she accepted the court’s mandate and started a U-turn for Sofia’s green policy.

According to all four mayors, quoted by the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency, the air quality in all cities has improved. Sofia, for instance, is within the norms for fine particulate matter for the third year in a row. The same can be said for Burgas, according to mayor Dimitar Nikolov. Varna, in its own right, has been within mandated norms since 2014.

The mayor of Plovdiv, Zdravko Dimitrov, on the other hand, explained that the city is planning to tackle ‘mud zones’. It has already located all problem areas and they cover about 160,000 square metres.

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