Log in
A+ A A-

Measures to combat smog

The government announced a set of emergency measure to combat the smog from fireplaces that pose a threat to public health.

These measures were passed through Parliament as a joint ministerial decision, signed by the ministers of Finance, Interior, Development, Administrative Reform, Health, Environment, Transport, Public Order and Merchant Marine.

The combination of unfavorable weather conditions and the large number of people burning wood to stay warm because it is cheaper than using oil or gas for heating, has created severe air pollution over Athens, Thessaloniki and a number of other cities.

The Ministry of Health recommends to persons with breathing problems, or heart failure, especially children and the elderly (over 65 years of age) to avoid any type of outdoors exercise. Moreover, the Ministry suggests that they should avoid-if possible-staying in affected areas. Moreover, asthma sufferers should use their medication during these days more intensely and should consult their doctor regularly.

Beyond recommendations, the government also introduced certain bans during days when air pollution is high, above 150 micrograms per cubic meter.

These include:

-Nursery, primary and secondary schools should be closed.

-Homeowners should stop burning wood, that heating oil- or natural gas-fired central heating systems should have their thermostats set to 18 Celsius and that all outdoor exercise should be avoided.

Heating systems in most public buildings will be switched off, except hospitals, health stations, baby care centers, centers for the elderly etc.

-Industrial activity will have to be reduced by 30 percent.

-Diesel-powered cars and trucks will not be allowed on the roads in the affected areas, school buses will also be barred from circulating, while taxis will have to adopt the odd/even license plate system used in central Athens.

-No outdoor burning will be allowed.

Decisions on the implementation of the above measures will be taken by the Ministry of Environment for Attica and by the heads of Peripheries in the rest of the country.

On a different ministerial decision, the Ministry of Environment allows all those eligible for Social Rate on electricity to use free electricity during high particle concentration days. Moreover Non-governmental organization, churches and other social services' buildings will be treated with reduced rates during the 4-month winter season.

The ministerial decision, also commits the government to offering free electricity to needy households for twice the amount of days that the restrictive measures are in place.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis and Environment Minister Yiannis Maniatis, took the unusual step of holding a press conference on Christmas Day to insist that there will not be a change in heating oil tax.

Stournaras said that Greece is close to achieving its target for revenues from fuel sales this year. The goal was to collect 6.8 billion euros and the government is on course to gather almost 6.5 billion. He also insisted that the drop in heating oil consumption was only in a small part (about 15 percent) due to the cost of the fuel and the recession.

Maniatis emphasized that the government is offering heating oil subsidies for less well-off families. He said that up to 5 million people could claim these subsidies but that many had not applied for the cash bonus so far.

Georgiadis said that the number of cases being reported by lung clinics was up by 10 percent but he suggested this was normal for December.