Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe with land borders with 8 other countries and a coastline on the Black Sea. It is the second-largest country in Europe with only Russia being larger. Its total population is around 42 million and its capital city is Kyiv.
In early 2021, Ukraine was experiencing a period of “Moderate” quality air with a US AQI reading of 60. This is in line with figures suggested by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The Government of Ukraine must take concrete measures to reduce emissions from the largest sources of air pollution which primarily are the thermal energy facilities.
The Government of Ukraine must address the problem of non-compliance of power plants with the requirements of the National Emission Reduction Plan as soon as possible and keep the level of emissions within individual permissible values. To do this, in particular, it is necessary to reduce operating hours during periods of peak air pollution.
The Government of Ukraine must cancel all plans to build new coal-fired power plants. The authorities should refuse to provide state guarantees for the construction of a new power unit at Slovyanska TPP.
Ukrainian environmental authorities should ensure careful monitoring of air pollution in areas with high emissions from coal mining and combustion, and make this data available to the public. All coal-fired power plants should introduce continuous monitoring of emissions and publish the data online in free access.
Public authorities should develop long-term plans that will support the development of renewable energy sources, energy efficiency, electrification of all modes of transport, as well as monitor compliance with air quality standards in human settlements.
The main air pollutant in Ukraine is from industry. It produces almost twice as many harmful emissions as motor transport which equates to 65 and 35 per cent, respectively.
Amongst industrial facilities, the main air pollutants are thermal power plants which account for about 29 per cent of all harmful emissions into the atmosphere. In general, the energy sector, metallurgical and coal industries account for 33, 25 and 23 per cent of all pollutants emitted into the atmosphere, respectively, the chemical and petrochemical industries account for approximately 3 per cent. The largest share of emissions comes from the Donetsk-Dnieper region which contributes a massive 79 per cent of total emissions in the country.
According to experts, the main air pollutants in Ukraine are enterprises of ferrous metallurgy, thermal energy, coal, oil and gas and cement industries. The largest share of pollutant emissions (41.3 per cent, excluding carbon dioxide) is accounted for by the production and distribution of electricity, gas and water.
All available coal facilities in Ukraine were designed by the Soviet authorities, and the construction of the "newest" thermal power plants was completed in the mid-‘70s. Most of them work without working dust filters and none of them is equipped with equipment for removing sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). And because part of the coal capacity is also used to produce heat for space heating, such stations are located in or near densely populated areas of the cities. This poses an even greater danger to human health.
Unfortunately, the problem of air pollution in Ukraine does not receive due attention at the national and international levels. The air quality monitoring system in Ukraine is outdated, it does not allow the collection of data in a single digital format and the ability to view them in real-time.
The European Commission have given the Government of Ukraine six additional years to bring power plants included in the National Emission Reduction Plan for Large Combustion Plants (NPS) in line with the requirements of the Industrial Emissions Directive.
Quality of life, health status, the possibility of sustainable development and human well-being all depend on the quality of the environment, in particular, the quality of atmospheric air. According to the WHO, 91 per cent of the world's population lives in areas where the level of air pollution exceeds acceptable levels, and nine out of ten people breathe air with high concentrations of pollutants.
The growth of toxic substances in the environment primarily affects the health of the population. The quality of agricultural products is deteriorating, there is an impact on the climate of certain regions and the state of the ozone layer of the Earth, together with the death of flora and fauna. Oxides of carbon, sulphur, nitrogen, hydrocarbons, lead compounds, dust, and so on, which enter the atmosphere, have various toxic effects on the human body.
According to the Ministry of Health, the analysis of the prevalence of diseases in the population of Ukraine during 2007-2011 shows that this figure is constantly growing. In addition, the World Health Organisation estimates that more than 2 million people die each year from inhaling the smallest particles contained in indoor and outdoor air.
Economic development, the introduction of new technologies and materials, the results of scientific research on the impact on human health and the environment of pollutants require constant modernisation and improvement of environmental management tools and emission control. These are the sort of measures needed to address the problem of polluted air.
It is well-known that motor transport is one of the major sources of air pollutants in many countries around the world, including Ukraine. The main pollutants include dust particles of both PM10 and PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), hydrocarbons (СnНm), aldehydes (РСНО), carbon monoxide (СО), heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, nickel, mercury), formaldehyde (CH20), dust undifferentiated in composition, benz (a) pyrene (C20H12). Vehicle emissions are particularly dangerous because they are released in the immediate vicinity of pavements in the area of active pedestrian traffic (for cities and villages) and along the edges of roads (green verges of roads). The largest amount of toxic substances is released during variable modes of engine operation, in particular during start and stop, as well as during idling. Therefore, in cities, the maximum concentration of toxic substances is observed at intersections and at traffic lights. At the same time, about 50 per cent of vehicle emissions within the city are on low-speed roads and less than 25 per cent on high-speed roads.
The state is currently developing and implementing management measures to reduce the inhalation impact of vehicle emissions on public health through several measures. Converting vehicles and other users of fossil fuels and installations to less toxic fuels. Rational planning and construction of settlements with the observance of defined distance to transport routes and the removal of freight transit road transport from densely populated residential areas to routes outside the city.
The restriction of entry of motor transport and other vehicles into the city centres at certain times of the day especially of vehicles intended for the carriage of goods. The condition of the state of the roads themselves needs addressing as many of them are in a poor state of disrepair and as such cause a lot of dust to be emitted through their broken surfaces. The traffic control system needs to be fully automated and computer-controlled via sensors at each junction.
Ukraine ranks first in the world in the number of deaths from air pollution, according to a report from the World Health Organisation, to which they refer, gives a figure of 54,507 deaths from polluted air in Ukraine in 2012, which per 100,000 population is indeed the highest among other countries. However, according to the same report, the "uncertainty" of the mortality rate for Ukraine is also the highest amongst all countries: the actual number of deaths can vary from 673 to 79,137. This means that mortality from dirty the air in Ukraine is either one of the lowest or the highest on the planet. The figures are not there to support either number.
The main indicators that determine air pollution in the world and on which the report is based, including the mentioned report, are the concentrations of solid particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 and 10 mm (PM2.5 and PM10 respectively). In Ukraine, the state does not monitor the concentration of these particles in the air.
The problem is not only that the air in Ukraine is dirty and people are dying from it. The problem is that there is no information on how dirty it really is and how many people actually die.
Monitoring the content of pollutants in the air of Ukrainian cities is based on recommendations that were pertinent some 40 years ago. Technology has vastly changed in those last decades and the monitoring situation needs to reflect these changes.
The main method of determining the concentrations of pollutants is the sampling of air at stationary observation posts. The number of posts is determined by the size of the city and the peculiarities of the structure of the industry. It can range from one post for cities with a population of fewer than 50,000 inhabitants to twenty posts for cities with a population of millions. In 2016, the country had 129 posts in 39 cities. Most, 16 posts - in Kyiv, 10 posts - in Kharkov, 8 - in Odessa, 6 - in the Dnieper. Large industrial centres - Zaporozhye, Kryvyi Rih, Mariupol - had five observation posts each, while for most regional centres their number did not exceed four.
Sampling is carried out at certain time intervals in accordance with one of the four observation programs: complete, incomplete, abbreviated or daily. The full program provides four measurements during the day: at 01:00, 07:00, 13:00 and 19:00 local time; incomplete - three: at 07:00, 13:00, 19:00; abbreviated - two: at 07:00, 13:00; whilst the daily program provides continuous observations.
Monitoring of concentrations of dust PM2.5 and PM10, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, lead and its inorganic compounds, benzo (a) pyrene, formaldehyde and radioactive substances is mandatory. Other substances may be included in the program of monitoring which is the decision of local governments in accordance with the specifics of the environmental situation.
The concentrations of contaminants obtained as a result of sampling carry little information by themselves. To determine air quality, the actual concentrations of pollutants need to be compared with the maximum allowable concentrations (MPC). The maximum allowable concentration is the maximum concentration at which during the whole life of a person there is no direct or indirect adverse effect on the present and future generations, no reduced efficiency, no deterioration of health and sanitary living conditions. MPCs are set on the basis of long-term research in specialised agencies. The latest version was approved in 2015, so maybe needs to be reviewed as it is now 2021.
The result of the comparison of actual and maximum permissible concentrations is the value of the array of exceeding the MPC. It makes it possible to assess the level of impact of certain substances on human health. However, comparisons of such indicators are not always accurate, because different substances have different levels of harmfulness. The calculation of the air pollution index (ISA) helps to cope with this limitation. In addition to comparing the actual concentration to the limit, it takes into account the hazard class. The complex index of atmospheric pollution allows estimating pollution of a certain place from various substances.
A disadvantage of the existing monitoring system is the measurement at set intervals. This makes it impossible to record the maximum values if they are observed at another time of day, and also affects the accuracy of averaging. For comparison, the EU practices constant and, in some cases, random observations.
It is also important to implement environmental safety standards to prevent the negative impact of pollution not only on human health but also on the environment. Despite the fact that the procedure for the development of these standards has been defined by law for more than 15 years, the relevant standards have not been approved by the Ministry of Ecology.
Finally, Ukraine lacks a legal framework for informing the public about air quality. Monitoring data does not belong to open data. Access to that is regulated within the framework of general legislation on access to public information. In Kyiv, for example, some information on pollutant concentrations is published by the Central Geophysical Observatory. However, they are not complete and are stored on the site for only a few days. In many other cities, even such basic information is lacking.