What is the Quality of Tbilisi Air?

One of the most pressing issues in today’s world is that of air pollution. Although air pollution affects some parts of the world more than others, it has become a dangerous problem for all modern countries. Both governmental and non-governmental agencies are attempting to assess the air quality of Georgia and develop measures to control the situation before it escalates further. In an attempt to understand the severity of the situation facing Georgia, GT spoke to a few of the specialists working to tackle Tbilisi’s air pollution.

The Monitoring and Prognostication Centre at the Ministry of Environmental protection ascertains that the peculiarities in Georgian industrial development and people’s lifestyles have had both a negative and a positive effect on the environment. As Ia Khomeriki explained, “The number one polluter in Georgia is automobiles. The concentration of carbonic acid, which they produce, exceeds the norm by 1.5 – 2.5 times. Secondhand cars and low quality benzene-- which contains the dangerous supplement (tqvia) that gives it solidity but at the same time produces dangerous emissions-- are the reason for that. I would also point to the new buses, that don’t turn off their engine when stopping, which also damages the air. In other countries, it is a matter of ecological culture not to go out with a spoiled car, while here we pay less attention to things like this.”

Perhaps the second most influential factor, according to Khomeriki, is the recent construction boom in Tbilisi. Construction causes an increase in the dust concentration in the air. While Khomeriki admitted that dust concentrations had increased, and sulfur concentration were nearly two times more than normal, he argued that the air quality was not in “catastrophic condition,” and he estimates that, “only if the concentration of any of the ingredients has increased by ten times can we can talk about the disastrous state of the air.” He asserted that currently the air situation in Georgia is not dire; “I can say with confidence that right now, Georgia’s air is controllable, and not dangerous for life conditions.”

Usually, pollution control authorities measure both the amount of pollutants already present in the atmosphere and the amount entering it from a variety of sources. Usually they test open, or ambient, air for the presence of specified pollutants. The amount of each pollutant is counted in parts per million or, in some cases, milligrams or micrograms per cubic meter.

Measurements are taken at specific sources—industrial smokestacks and automobile tailpipes—in order to understand the degree of pollution being emitted. Two methods are being used to control pollution, by limiting the amount of pollutants produced in the first place and by using devices to capture pollutants that have already been created.

Oddly enough, Georgia’s lack of industry and near absence of large factories means it does not experience excessive industrial waste; as a result, Georgia is in one of the least industrially polluted regions in the world. Gio Todua, from the Environmental Research and Civil Education Centre “Gaia” explained that Georgia is somewhat safe from chemical threats caused by industrialization because there are only two or three factories in the country.

Todua argues that we face a more serious threat in Georgia than factory emissions: “The problem that I would like people to pay attention to is tree and forest destruction in Georgia. This matter is out of control and it should be more strictly regulated.”

He described another serious problem of poor construction planning. “Meaning that when building a multi storied house constructors should take into consideration a number of issues – such as how well it is positioned, pay attention that the houses don’t block the access of the air from either forests or rivers to the centre of the city. This should be one of the concerns for the governmental bodies, which control the building processes in the city, because Tbilisi is gradually losing its vital breathing zones,” he explained.

Georgians do not generally have central heating in their homes, and this has also contributed to the air pollution problems; people use kerosene and gas to heat their homes during winter instead. Of course, these types of factors are very difficult to eliminate.

The Press Centre of the Ministry of Environmental Protection provided the following information on measures undertaken to protect the air: “Initially, people have to cut down on things which increase the rate of dirty air. For example, people shouldn’t need to always use unnatural coal and instead of using such things, they should use environmental energy sources. In this instance, taking air pollution under control becomes easier.” The centre claims that to better the pollution situation, people need to decrease their use of non-environmentally friendly items; “Indoor pollution control must be accomplished building by building or even room by room. Proper ventilation mimics natural outdoor air currents, reducing levels of indoor air pollutants by circulating fresh air. After improving ventilation, the most effective single step is probably banning smoking in public rooms. Mainly we should bring in new standards on a whole lot of things.”

Typically, developed countries, have already gone through a period of rapid, dirty industrialization and demand cleaner technology. Less developed nations, hoping for rapid economic growth, are less enthusiastic about pollution control. They seek financial help from developed countries to make the expensive changes necessary to reduce pollution emissions during the industrial processes.

Developing countries are building up their own industries, and their citizens are buying cars as soon as they can afford them. Air pollution control in Georgia is a race between environmental agencies’ attempts to reduce the severity of pollution from each source, such as factories and cars, and a developing country’s need for these same pollution sources and their consequential rapid multiplication.

Sophia Baslandze
2007.08.13 13:15
The Georgian Times