After about a year and a half, Minister Brabec met with his Saxon counterpart in Most today. They discussed air and nature protection, and clean mobility

After about a year and a half, Minister Brabec met with his Saxon counterpart in Most today. They discussed air and nature protection, and clean mobility

In Most today, Environment Minister Richard Brabec met his counterpart, the Saxon State Minister for the Environment and Agriculture, Thomas Schmidt. The main subjects of their discussion included the Czech-German cooperation in the field of air protection – in particular, a common procedure in addressing odour episodes in the border region, cooperation in the development of clean mobility in border areas, and also cooperation in national parks. The Ministers today also touched upon the construction of a weir on the Elbe River.

One of the topics which the two Ministers discussed today was a longtime problem of odour on the Czech-Saxony border. The inhabitants of German settlements along the Czech border in the Ore mountains have been complaining about the smell for a long time but citizens on the Czech side have never reported any smell so far. The issue of cross-border air pollution has been discussed in the Czech-German working group for air protection for many years. The meetings are regularly attended by representatives of State ministries of Saxony and Bavaria, the representatives of the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic, the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, the Regional Authorities and the regional office of the Czech Environmental Inspectorate (CEI Ústí nad Labem).

"First I would like to appreciate the 25 years long cooperation of both of our national parks, where our experts together with their Saxon colleagues cooperate in the protection of black grouse as part of revitalising the Ore mountains. We have agreed that the protection of this endangered species is a priority for both ministries. It is therefore needed to ensure adequate protection for the grouse, whose population is found both on the Czech and Saxon side of the Ore mountains. We also discussed the progress in addressing the so-called odour episodes, which the German inhabitants of the Ore mountain border areas have been long complaining about. We arranged a visit of our Saxon colleagues in Unipetrol and other enterprises, which was to determine whether they smell the same kind of odour, which the residents in Germany complain about. But the odour perception on the premises of the undertakings was not identical with the reported smell," Environment Minister Richard Brabec comments on the meeting.

At the last meeting in February 2015, the two Ministers promised, above all, more pro-active cooperation in reporting the smell. In practice this means today that any new situations will be immediately reported using a special reporting system. The information about the reported smell goes on the Czech side to the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute and the Czech Environmental Inspectorate which may carry out an immediate investigation. The German side, in turn, receives reports on any extraordinary situation in the industrial sources of this area.

Over the autumn-winter period of 2015 to 2016, the German side, after evaluating the odor complaints, submitted to the Czech side for examination a total of 13 odour episodes from the period of 28 October 2015 - 18 February 2016 and 3 episodes from 19 – 22 May 2016. In last year's autumn-winter period of 2014-2015, a total of 26 odour episodes were submitted, and in the period 2013-2014 it was 17 odour episodes. The regional office of the Czech Environmental Inspectorate in Ústí nad Labem did not find on the days specified any incidents or significant deviations from the standard operation, which could be the cause of the odour. No complaints were recorded from residents in the territory of the Czech Republic. All industrial companies on the Czech side, which could be considered to be the originators of the odour, comply with the requirements of European legislation on the best available techniques (BAT).

To help determine the cause of the smell, a new joint research project of the Czech-German partners OdCom will kick off in January 2017. As part of the project, ultrafine particles will be measured, the effect of ultrafine particles and odour substances on the health of the population of the Ore mountains and their foothills will be evaluated, and the causes of the odour episodes in the border areas will be analysed. The project will build on the already completed project UltraSchwarz [1], in which ultrafine particles were measured and their impact on the health of the population in the border region was evaluated, and in addition it will assess the impact of odour substances on the health of the population of the borderlands and analyse the causes of the odour episodes. The objective is, inter alia, to identify possible sources, or the originator of the odor nuisance on the German and Czech side.

Regarding the smell, the Ministers agreed today that they would continue to cooperate closely in the reporting of the so-called odour episodes and in finding the possible originator of the smell. "The reporting system has greatly accelerated over the last year and a half, yet there are still some time delays on both sides. By their removal, the inspection group could set out from the Czech Republic to the place with the reported smell with the smallest possible time delay. This subject will be also discussed by the Czech-German working group on air quality, which will meet this year in Karlovy Vary. At the same time, the measurements that will be made by the above mentioned project OdCom will be important. This project builds on the UltraSchwarz project and could help to find the possible originator of the odour," says Minister Brabec.

The Ministers today also agreed on joint development of electric mobility in the Ore mountains. The MoE can offer its experience from a pilot project in Šumava. At present, a network of charging stations is already being completed on both sides of the National Park Šumava and the Bavarian NP. The aim is to build a network across the national parks in two years. "This project can be started right away in fact, we have a team at the Ministry of the Environment, which works on the development of electric mobility, and together with the Saxon colleagues we can immediately develop the idea also in the Ore mountains. At first, we would single out the places where we would like to develop the infrastructure for the development of electric bicycles as well as a network of charging stations, and then we would agree on specific joint implementation of the project. Both Minister Schmidt and I agreed that this project could significantly help to develop environmentally friendly tourism in the area," said Minister Brabec today.

Notes:

[1] The project named UltraSchwarz - Ultrafine particles and health in Erzgebirgskreis and the Ústí nad Labem Region was completed in 2014. The aim of the project supported by the EU was to prepare permanent, routine measurement of ultrafine dust in the monitored areas of the Ore mountains and their foothills that have been historically burdened by lignite mining and by industry. German and Czech partners in the project together monitored the impact of ultrafine dust on human health, in particular on respiratory, heart and blood circulation diseases.

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