Strangely, the Hungarian State Audit office is satisfied with the air quality
The report of the State Audit Office (SAO) “Controlling the measures for air quality protection” have nothing to do with reality – states the Clean Air Action Group (CAAG).
SAO considers the measures taken for air quality improvement to be effective, however, data show other results. According to the European Environmental Agency's report Air Quality in Europe - 2017, in Hungary air pollution causes the premature death of more than 14 000 people each year, which is one of the worst per capita values in Europe. Also, based on the European Commission's data, the Hungarian economy suffers a yearly loss of more than 1500 billions of HUF because of air pollution, including more than 3 million lost workdays.
SAO happily reports that ”government offices have air quality plans available for each air pollution zone”, in other words, plans exist for reducing air pollution in the whole territory of Hungary. However, the report does not mention at all that the above plans – even if they were actually implemented – are insufficient for a substantive improvement of air quality.
SAO mostly takes into consideration the data coming from air quality measurement stations, which however does not reflect the severity of the pollution that people are actually facing, because the number of measurement stations is low, and there are many settlements and municipal districts with severely polluted air, where no official measurements are taken.
In Hungary, the most severe air pollution is caused by the burning of solid materials (especially municipal solid waste) by residents. In SAO's report it is stated that ”the government offices perform their control duties correctly.” At the same time, according CAAG's experience of many years, and based on a recent representative national public opinion poll, the activities of the government offices to curb illegal waste burning are unsuccessful. Had SAO's report investigated this issue thoroughly, it would have revealed that the lack of success is not due to the work of the employees of state authorities, since the competent ministry, the Ministry of Agriculture makes serious efforts to help the work of the authorities work in spite of its limited possibilities. It is rather the lack of funds and human resources which inhibits the achievement of significant changes.
<>In SAO's report there is a list of several measures taken, however, there is no explanation which would prove that the measures have actually improved air quality. For example, the designation of low emission zones – advocated by CAAG for a long time – is listed in the report as a measure taken for air quality improvement, however, no such zones have been designated in Hungary so far.
The report also applauds the Ministry's awareness raising activities regarding residential heating. Indeed, this activity is very useful and meritable, however, in another chapter of the same report it turns out that the funds dedicated to such activities equal to just a fraction of the needed amount.
Translated by Katalin Tarr