Ušakovs however told independent LNT news program 900 sekundes Tuesday that the city has had an action plan worked out since 2013 to reduce downtown traffic, increase bike lanes, reduce parking spaces and limit driving into the city center. Plans have been realized since 2009 to erect new parks, green zones, and bike lanes. He claimed Riga would not have to pay any fines or face a court hearing.
The mayor admitted Riga has an air pollution problem, but he said the situation was “not catastrophic.” He noted that the measuring station is situated precisely at one of the worst spots for standing traffic downtown and claimed the rest of the city hardly has a problem with air quality.
The EU’s July 10 decision cites Riga for “failing to take necessary measures since 2007 to protect citizens’ health” and calls on Latvia to “take forward-looking, speedy and effective action to comply as soon as possible.”
The EC’s reasoned opinion follows a formal notice which Latvia received regarding the problem already in January 2013.
Tiny particles of fine dust (legally labeled PM10) breathed in from the air can cause asthma, cardiovascular problems, lung cancer and premature death. The particles originate from emissions from industry, traffic and domestic heating. According to EC standards and directives, Member States have to limit citizens' exposure to these particles.
“For patients who already have respiratory problems, breathing in this dirty air can sharpen symptoms or bring a background condition to the forefront, like bronchial asthma,” Tuberculosis and Lung Disease Center doctor Ineta Grisle told LSM.
A July public opinion poll cited one in four residents of Latvia feeling the impact of air quality upon their personal health.
As the Baltic region’s largest city Riga naturally faces some of the greatest air quality troubles, Environment and Regional Development Ministry (VARAM) environmental protection department director Rudīte Vesere told LSM. VARAM is hoping that the Riga City Council will complete its air quality improvement plan and begin its implementation in time to avoid being summoned to the ECJ.
Readings taken during August’s heatwave show Riga to have been up to 19 times in excess of allowable levels of fine dust particles at the measuring station downtown at various times.