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Vehicle emissions top air pollution concerns

Malta's buses are well known for harmful emissions. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Malta's buses are well known for harmful emissions. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Heavy vehicle emissions top the list of concerns where air pollution is concerned, according to a public consultation exercise conducted by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority.

Emission by buses and heavy vehicles was highlighted as the major air pollutant concern, though few complained about dust pollution caused by the construction industry.

The authority is currently preparing an air quality plan outlining how the island will comply with EU limits for potentially hazardous particulate matter in the air, called PM10. These include airborne road dust and soil and vehicle pollution.

Although the island was originally meant to comply with EU regulations for PM10 emissions by 2005, the established levels were not reached.

A Mepa spokesman said: "Malta has had difficulty in complying with the PM10 limit values and is in the process of preparing an air quality plan which has to demonstrate how conformity will be achieved by May 2011."

A public consultation exercise inviting people to suggest policy measures, which will be included in the draft, is open until Friday as part of a two-phased consultation process.

"Efforts should be made by all pollution sources. However, the biggest effort should be focused on the transport sector since monitoring data clearly shows that this sector is the main contributor to air pollution," the spokesman said.

Malta will also be adopting a new EU directive by June of next year introducing new limit values for finer dust particles, which are known as PM2.5. The directive requires all member states to reduce exposure in urban areas by an average of 20 per cent by 2020. Because of its very fine composition, PM2.5 - which is the result of burning fuel due to power generation, heavy duty vehicles and diesel-powered cars - is dangerous and can cause lung cancer.

EU countries are already required to monitor air pollution, report to the European Commission, maintain the status of good air quality and improve it in areas where it exceeds limit values. Data for 2005 had shown that EU air quality limits were being exceeded around Malta during a good chunk of the year.

The Mepa spokesman said the legislation aimed to safeguard human health and ecosystems by establishing limit values for a number of pollutants and providing specific deadlines.

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