Poland is known for its greenery, its grandiose landscapes, its sometimes still wild nature. But it is also the country of coal, often singled out in Europe for its environmental policy, and which suffers like many from pollution.
Take the example of the city of Krakow, which has serious pollution problems, whether from the cars or the coal factories that surround it: on average, the inhabitants of Krakow lose three and a half years of hope of life due to pollution.
Also, the city, which is one of the most polluted in Europe, is trying to make efforts and has already banned individual coal heating or cars in its historic center. It is the first metropolis in Poland to take such measures. According to Bartosz Piłat, one of the leaders of an association that monitors air quality in Poland, the situation is starting to improve: “Ten years ago, you could compare the concentration of fine particles in the air in Krakow with that of New Delhi. Today it still happens, but it’s not a hundred days a year like before. It’s more five or twelve days a year.”
Air pollution causes 45,000 premature deaths a year in the country. It is to reduce pollution that the city has decided to ban old vehicles on almost all these streets from next year. Krakow will gradually reduce the number of vehicles allowed in the city. Once fully implemented in 2026, only petrol cars built after 2000 and diesels built after 2010 will be able to drive.
Electric bikes instead of cars
Krakow has one of the largest pedestrian and cycle bridges in Poland and has launched an e-bike lending program as part of the European Low-Carb project which involves six regions in Central Europe and builds on their joint efforts to reduce emissions from their transport systems.
Environmental degradation is indeed seen as the price to pay for the country’s economic development. Added to this are geopolitical issues: deprived of its coal and without a nuclear power plant, Poland would be forced to depend on Russian gas. Environmental associations are pushing for the development of renewable energy, but 90% of energy still comes from burning coal in the country.