Message for World Environment Day – 5th June

The Ministry of Environment and Urbanization will renew the clean air action plan of 31 provinces with the City Air Project.

The Project of Improving Air Quality and Raising Public Awareness in Cities (City Air), initiated by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization last year with the intent to increase individual awareness and renew the clean air action plan of 31 provinces in Turkey, has left behind a year.

The Ministry, which conducted four workshops in a year with local administrations of 31 provinces in Konya, Kahramanmaraş, Sinop, and İzmir within the scope of the project financed by the Republic of Turkey and the EU, will create road maps that will contribute to develop city-scale emission reduction strategies in the new era and increase air quality by raising awareness in the public.

With the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, the need for clean and quality air is at the top of the agenda all over the world. Due to the pandemic, the majority of the population stayed at home and the number of vehicles on the traffic decreased dramatically, especially in large cities, which reduces the particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide pollution emitted by the vehicles, resulting in improved air quality. This situation is indicated in Figure-1 and Figure-2. The reduction in particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide pollution, especially in metropolitan cities, in March and April, can be observed on the maps of Istanbul Technical University Centre for Satellite Communication and Remote Sensing (UHUZAM), the European Union’s Air Quality Monitoring Program (CAMS-Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service) and the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

These results indicate that any work to improve air quality will increase the quality of our lives. Based on this vision, the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, which started to implement the Project for Improving Air Quality and Increasing Public Awareness in Cities (CityAir) last year, has renewed the clean air action plans of 31 provinces and has accelerated efforts to increase individual awareness.

In the first year of the project financed by the Republic of Turkey and the European Union, the Ministry discussed in detail the current situation regarding air quality and future planning of the relevant provinces, organizing workshops in Kahramanmaraş, Sinop, and İzmir with the participation of local administrations and relevant stakeholders. Brochures for children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those who are at risk were also prepared within the scope of the project.

The Ministry, which organized a wide range of activities in September 2019 within the scope of the project in Konya that has the highest bicycle use, aims to guide citizens to use public transport for long distances and to walk and cycle for close distances.

City Air Project Expert Prof. Alper Ünal from Istanbul Technical University (ITU) Eurasia Institute of Earth Sciences, Climate and Marine Sciences Department pointed out that the air quality adversely affected by pollutants based on domestic heating, transport, and the industry significantly harm both human health and economies and drew attention to the benefits of implementation of action plans to be prepared and increasing individual awareness. Evaluating the project’s one year within the scope of the 5th of June World Environment Day, Ünal emphasized that there is a misperception that industrial facilities are the only cause of air pollution. Ünal continued as follows:

‘The improvement in air quality in connection with the withdrawal of vehicles from traffic during the coronavirus period has clearly demonstrated our individual responsibility for the air we breathe. Even in a short period of like two months, we have seen that air pollution caused by particulate matter emitted from vehicles decreased by 32 percent. For this reason, while conduction our inventory and modeling studies that constitute the basis for air quality in 31 provinces, we create public awareness of individual responsibility for the air we breathe”.


Air pollution is a global issue

Noting that within the scope of the CityAir project, they aim to increase the recognition level of air pollution in the long term by increasing awareness and effective combat, Ünal expressed, “in the workshops, information was given on how local administrations and all stakeholders explain the issue to our citizens. Air pollution is also included in the list of “the most important problems facing the world in 2019″ announced by the World Health Organization. Good air quality, as an effective protector, strengthens us in the fight against corona virus”.

Figure 1. Air Pollution Map January-March Change in Selected Provinces of Turkey

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