February 10, 2017 / 12:37 PM / 8 months ago

Activists to complain to EU over Poland's choking air pollution

WARSAW, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Environmental groups are to complain to the European Union about dangerous levels of air pollution, accusing government departments and local authorities of passing the buck and failing to tackle the lethal smog.

Poland’s air is the most polluted in Europe, due in part to extensive coal and garbage-burning by households, and kills more than 40,000 people a year, activists say. Cities such as Warsaw, Katowice and Krakow have choked with smog this winter, with pollution levels often exceeding those of Beijing or New Delhi.

The energy, environment and economy ministries have come up with proposals, including monitoring the quality of solid fuel or imposing standards on household burners.

But environmentalists say bolder measures are needed and blame the government for downplaying the problem and putting the interest of the coal industry above citizens’ health.

“Instead of efficient actions we mostly see the government and local authorities shifting responsibilities for solving the problem,” said Agnieszka Warso-Buchanan from environmental law firm ClientEarth.

“This is why we have decided to prepare a complaint to the European Commission.”

The EU executive has already launched legal action against Poland and several other EU member states for air pollution, but such procedures can take years to have any meaningful impact. Twenty-three of the EU’s 28 member states breach air quality standards, the Commission says.

Aside from air quality, campaigners in Poland are concerned about the impact of a government decision to increase logging in the Bialowieza Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage site. (Reporting and writing by Agnieszka Barteczko; Additional reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel in Brussels; Editing by Lidia Kelly and Robin Pomeroy)

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