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Environmental problems of Northern Eurasia

Air Pollution

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Air Pollution Data

Air pollution monitoring began in the FSU in the 1950s and expanded continuously until 1990. Pollution monitoring is a part of the Air Quality Management Strategy which was adopted as the main approach to air pollution control adopted in 1952 (Shahgedanova and Burt, 1993). This approach involves setting air quality standards for ambient air and achieving compliance with the standards (Elsom, 1996). The USSR was, in fact, the first country to introduce standards for ten pollutants in 1948 and by 1981 standards had been established for more than 200 individual pollutants and their combinations. While in most countries only the most widespread pollutants such as sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide (NO and NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and suspended particulate matter (SPM) are monitored, many other pollutants were measured in the FSU. This included many toxic substances such as lead, mercury, phenol, formaldehyde, and various hydrocarbons (Bezuglaya et al., 1993). The number of monitoring sites differs for each city and depends on population, topography, and industry. A city with a population over a million has about ten regularly operating monitoring sites representative of various types of urban land use. In 1995, air quality was monitored in 300 cities.

Though extensive, the air pollution monitoring network has many flaws (WHO/UNEP, 1992; Shahgedanova and Burt, 1993; Shahgedanova et al., 1999). First, regular observations are often not available for small industrial settlements ('one-company towns') which tend to be very polluted. Second, an intermittent sampling strategy is employed (observations are made 2-4 times a day) while continuous monitoring is used in Western and Central Europe, North America, and increasingly in South America. Although the implications of an intermittent schedule for comparison with measurements made in other countries and international standards are not large (Curran et al., 1991; Shahgedanova et al., 1999), this limitation should be kept in mind when viewing air quality in the FSU in the international context. Third, measurements of SO2 and SPM have extremely low sensitivity and cannot be reliably used (WHO/UNEP, 1992). Measurements are restricted to total SPM and no information is available about fine particulate matter which is the most harmful to human health.

Regular emission inventories of stationary sources commenced in the 1970s. The legal basis for control of emissions was the Law on Air Quality of 1980 which obliged local authorities to establish emission standards for individual enterprises. All enterprises, which were officially identified as sources of pollution, were obliged to monitor pollution and supply data on emissions, fuel statistics, technological processes, and pollution control equipment to local authorities (Shahgedanova and Burt, 1993). On many occasions, emission standards have never been achieved. However, city councils were compelled to compile comprehensive emission inventories regularly. The quality of data varies between cities depending on the prevailing type of pollution sources. In large cities, in the European part of the country, there are two stationary source categories: power plants and industry and both supply emission data (either measured or estimated) which are verified by environmental health inspectors. Residential, commercial, and administrative premises are not sources of pollution themselves as centralized heating is used and, because there is a small number of stationary sources, emissions are estimated with a fair degree of accuracy (Shahgedanova et al., 1999). However, throughout the FSU in the past and in small towns and most urban areas in the Asiatic territory at present, domestic combustion is an important source of pollution which is usually not included in the official reports. Military facilities (including industrial plants) are another category which often is not being monitored. Experts agree that emission data provided by the Soviet governmental reports (and later governmental reports by the FSU countries) are underestimated compared to independent estimates provided by Western analysts (Veldt, 1991; Pacyna et al, 1991; Hill, 1997). Thus, estimations of SO2 emissions for 1980 varied between 7.2 and 12.6 million tonnes for European Russia, 10.5 and 16.4 million tonnes for the Russian Federation, and 16.2 and 28.5 million tonnes for the FSU, with the official data being systematically lower. Estimates of emissions of nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide (NOX) in 1987 varied between 2.4-5.8, 2.6-6.4, and 4.5-11.2 million tonnes, respectively (Hill, 1997).

However, the most significant deficiency of emission data is the lack of reliable information about vehicular emissions. The following factors are considered when compiling inventories of traffic emissions: amount and type of fuel sold in a given urban area, number of different types of vehicles, and traffic conditions (e.g., traffic intensity, average speed, number of stops at traffic lights along the routes which typify traffic conditions). Two main problems affect the accuracy of these estimations. First, poor maintenance of vehicles is not taken into account (it is 'on the road' emission measurements that are required for realistic results instead of those obtained for new vehicles). Second, information on driving patterns is usually insufficient and outdated.

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