Sofia's Silent Enemy: Smog Veils Bulgaria's Bid to Change

Editorial |Author: Henry Rowlands | December 10, 2009, Thursday // 18:51|  views

When I entered Bulgaria for the first time over 4 years ago I could not believe what I was faced with; Firstly my friendly taxi driver took me through what seemed to be a huge rubbish dump, which I later identified as the gypsy ghetto next to the airport, and then as I looked into the distance I saw a city covered in a foul smelling fog, a phenomenon I had only heard about from my father in his legends regarding 1950’s London.

Four years and a number of adventures later I can safely say that I believe that this foul smelling smog, is still the Bulgarian capital’s and in some ways Bulgaria’s number one worst enemy.

In relation to this enemy, on Wednesday it was announced that Sofia is the 29th “greenest” city out of a total of 30 cities in the European. The results from a survey carried out by the German company Siemens were published Tuesday as part of the international climate change summit in Copenhagen. Anyone who has traveled a little will tell you that sadly this ranking is quite fair.

Amazingly, early Thursday the Bulgarian Environment Minister, Nona Karadzhova, followed the ranking announcement by saying that Bulgaria will put all projects on hold for the building of renewable energy facilities, until it completes an assessment of their energy potential and environmental impact.

Bulgaria's green energy plan will be now be delayed until the middle of 2010. "It turns out that the boom in the construction of wind and solar parks is linked to construction in protected areas and improper implementation of procedures under Natura 2000," she said.

Although Bulgaria has undertaken, as an EU member state, to increase production of green energy to 16% of the total by 2020, any delay in the implementation of such projects could affect generations to come. Many protestors at the current high profile climate summit in Copenhagen will be happy to inform you of the dangers of climate change and the need for speedy actions.

The problems with the notorious waste and smog problems in Sofia however do not just affect the climate. In fact they keep Bulgaria from developing economically and also cause huge health problems for the native population.

If you leave the global financial crisis to one side for a moment, and imagine any possible foreign investor or even a simple tourist arriving in Sofia Airport like I did, you may be able to realize that they will immediately be left with a bad impression, that will unlikely be overcome however much rakia they are forced to drink during their stay.

I am not sure if she knows yet, but Karadzhova is the most important politician in the new center-right GERB government and she must act fast. It is up to her to change those first impression problems and to allow Sofia to become a proud beacon of a new Bulgaria rather than a city whose future is hidden in the dark putrid smog that currently hides Mount Vitosha from view.

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Tags: smog, sofia, green, green energy, Kiev, Nona Karadzhova, NATURA 2000


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