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Polluted Air in Tbilisi

By Vladimer Napetvaridze
Monday, September 24
On September 22, a group of citizens held a protest meeting in front of Chancellery of the Government of Georgia. They protested the level of air pollution in Tbilisi and demanded decisive actions from the government.

The participant of the meeting had three main demands: - Regulation of Public transport system. They demanded to replace yellow micro-buses, operating in Tbilisi, with proper vehicles. - They also demanded to carry out an independent and transparent expertise on fuel quality. And its immediate replacement, if expertise finds harmful substances in fuel monitoring of ongoing constructions.

Recent studies show that atmospheric air in Georgia’s capital is critically polluted. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every 10 people breathe air polluted with 9 toxic substances and solid waste.

The public transport system is not sufficiently developed in Georgia; therefore, a significant portion of the population uses private vehicles. As a result, the number of private vehicles has grown rapidly over the past decade and has almost doubled in the last five-year period- nowadays there are approximately 500 000 cars in Tbilisi. To reduce the number of cars in Tbilisi, city hall initiated a new project- according to which, an hourly payment system for parking fees will be introduced. As the representatives of the City Hall claim, the aim of the initiative is to promote public transport popularization and it will serve as a stimulus to reduce the number of cars in the city. Reducing the number of private cars, can help to avoid traffic jams and thus reduce air pollution level in the capital, but Tbilisi municipal transport system is not ready to handle 1,2 million people.

Due to the improper public transportation system, most of the citizens prefer to buy private cars and the problem is, that most of the cars purchased are second-hand cars imported from aboard and the average age of the fleet in Georgia is 10-15 years. Diesel engine cars are very common.

The largest number of cars registered in Tbilisi is missing the catalytic converters, which is an exhaust emission control device that converts toxic gases and pollutants in exhaust gas from an internal combustion engine into less-toxic pollutants. Because of the external location and the use of valuable precious metals including platinum, palladium, rhodium, and gold, catalytic converters are often removed from the cars. Another problem with this part of vehicles is low-quality fuels available on the market, which can cause damage to the catalytic converters of vehicle exhausts. Car owners tend to have the damaged catalytic converters removed and not replaced, resulting in higher emissions from the vehicle. To cope with the problem of damaged vehicles, beginning January 2019, roadworthiness testing of all kind of vehicles will be Mandatory and it is expected that most of Tbilisi cars will fail this test.

Besides the damaged cars, one of the main causes of Tbilisi polluted air is unregulated constructions. Most of the developer companies are violating construction standards, causing air pollution.

The initiative of the City Hall to reduce the number of private vehicles in Tbilisi can improve air quality in the capital, but it can also lead to “paralyzation” of the city since at this moment the public transportation system is highly problematic in the city.