Air quality in Azerbaijan

Air quality index (AQI) and PM2.5 air pollution in Azerbaijan

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How to best protect from air pollution?

Reduce your air pollution exposure in Azerbaijan

How is Azerbaijan playing its role in world affairs?

Azerbaijan is also officially known as the Republic of Azerbaijan. It is situated in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia and is located at the junction of Eastern Europe and Western Asia.

In today's globalised world, one of the world's most pressing problems is the deteriorating ecological condition of the planet. As part of the Sustainable Human Development Program, the international community is working to address this secular problem. The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan pays great attention to the solution of environmental issues in the country. For many years, large-scale measures have been taken to improve the environmental situation and create a healthy environment. Strategic programs in the field of environmental protection are being successfully implemented.

The environment around us, including the atmosphere, serves the life and activity of people. At the same time, it is human beings who are the only beings who directly pollute the environment and ecology through their activities and the work they do to meet their needs. Worsening of the ecological situation is manifested primarily in air pollution. Atmospheric air pollution is the result of measures aimed at compensating for the economic and social needs of the people, the secondary impact of their activities. It is known that factories and power stations which operate in large cities emit toxins into the atmosphere, gases which are dangerous to human life, gases emitted by cars are also a major source of air pollution.

What are the main causes of air pollution in Azerbaijan?

As with all large developed cities, 51 per cent of total air pollution comes from transport. It is also known that 10-30 per cent of this pollution comes from motor transport. Of course, used cars, buses and other technical and transport vehicles operating on gas and oil products must emit a certain amount of toxic gases into the atmosphere. It is impossible without it. But the interest of the state and society is that these gases do not exceed the accepted standards. According to international standards, the most dangerous and harmful emissions from cars are carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrocarbons (HC).

Is air quality in Azerbaijan very poor?

It is important to reduce the number of cars to prevent the problem of air pollution. Instead of turning Azerbaijan into a raw material market, factories should be built and people employed. If these measures are taken, Azerbaijan can become one of the cleanest regions. The megalopolis is growing, construction is underway and the temperature is high. The air is dusty and people cannot breathe. In summer, when the weather is hot and windy, to reduce heat and dust, the surrounding areas should be irrigated. Asphalt was washed during the Soviet era but now none of this is done.

What is Azerbaijan doing about transportation and the pollution it causes?

Air pollution is the pollution of the atmosphere with gaseous, liquid or solid substances that endanger human life or health, damage the health of animals and plants or natural life activities, corrode metals, restrict visibility and create undesirable odours.

The main air pollutants from the operation of vehicles include carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). According to statistics, an average-sized car which has travelled 20,000 km, emits 0.775 kg of lead (Pb), 40.75 kg of nitrogen oxides (NOx), 234 kg of hydrocarbons (HC) and 765 kg of carbon monoxide (CO). Under the influence of sunlight, these waste products are subject to chemical changes, and the list of harmful substances is enriched with low-level tropospheric ozone (O3) and various toxins of photochemical origin. It is these substances that cause dangerous and uncontrollable complications for human life.

The most serious form of air pollution is smog, which is a mixture of gas, smoke, fog and dust. It is formed when water vapour condenses around small chemical particles. This is especially true in areas with heavy traffic, especially in large industrial cities. There are classical and photochemical types of smog. The photochemical type is formed by the effects of the sun's ultraviolet rays on the classic smog produced by carbon monoxide from vehicles and takes on a more harmful form. Photochemical smog forms a yellow haze in the air, which obscures the air, creates an unpleasant pungent odour, and worsens people's health. These transformations occur during the photochemical decomposition of hydrocarbons from the combustion of fossil fuels, such as gasoline. The reaction products are ozone, aldehydes, ketones, acetyl nitrate, includes organic acids and other decomposition products. In addition, carbon monoxide (CO) emitted by cars is considered the most toxic content of smog.

Smog has also caused thousands of people to become seriously ill. All types of smog reduce vision and irritate the respiratory system. Photochemical smog irritates the eyes and mucous membranes, causing tears, as well as damage the vegetation to varying degrees. Severe concentrations of harmful substances in the air as a result of smog sometimes leads to death.

How is air pollution monitored in Azerbaijan?

Measures to assess and reduce air pollution levels require the study of emission mechanisms and the distribution of hazardous wastes. Emission is the discharge, separation and radiation of wastes and substances that pollute the atmosphere. The emission depends on the vehicle's overall mileage (wear rate), make, weight, fuel purification rate and temperature, depending on the vehicle's mode of movement, speed and distance travelled.

In cities with heavy traffic, such as Baku, air pollution can be more intense and voluminous. According to the recorded figures, over 500,000 cars are currently registered in Baku. Then there are the other daily commuters to take into consideration when calculations are being made because thousands of cars enter the city every day from the surrounding environs. On the other hand, given that the vast majority of used cars have reached the end of their service life in other countries, it is not difficult to imagine what needs to be done. Road transport emits more than 200 toxic substances into the surrounding air in the process of work. 3.2 tons of carbon monoxide and 200-400 kg of other gaseous substances are emitted into the air from every thousand car engines every day.

It was noted that in 2000 there were 100,000 cars in Baku, in 2017 this number reached one million. In the 1990s, 70-80 per cent of emissions were caused by industrial enterprises and 30 per cent by vehicles. After gaining independence, Azerbaijan has preferred to bring European-compliant technologies into the country. For the past 15 years, the MENR's Expertise Department has been permitting the use of enterprises that use minimum emission technologies when assessing the environmental impact of industrial wastes. The results of the monitoring show that the new enterprises operating in the country are modern, i.e. low-waste enterprises.

Is the quality of Azerbaijan’s air getting better or worse?

Air pollution in Azerbaijan has halved compared to the 1990s. However, there is a problem of air pollution in major cities, and the main reason is the use of old cars. The ban on the import of old cars to Azerbaijan has been put forward as discussions are underway with a number of ministries on the transition to the production of Euro-5 fuel.

Large quantities of previously foreign-owned cars are now being imported to Azerbaijan. In 2000-2008 alone, 400,000 cars were imported. This is, of course, one of the main factors for air pollution. Azerbaijan must move on to European standards. The process has already started to improve the roadworthiness starting with the level of "Euro-2" and then "Euro-3", "Euro-4" and finally, "Euro-5". Most of the vehicles imported into Azerbaijan are Euro-2 standard because this standard is no longer acceptable in their source countries. So, wily businessmen buy these old vehicles abroad and import them back to Azerbaijan where controls are not that restrictive, yet! The emissions from these older vehicles are typically: 74 per cent carbon monoxide (CO), 22 per cent hydrocarbons (HC) and 4 per cent nitrogen oxides (NOx).

In accordance with the requirements of the Paris Climate Agreement, Azerbaijan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35 per cent by 2030. To achieve this goal, it is important to use environmentally friendly modes of transport and increase green areas. Many steps are being taken in these directions already.

Specialists from the local authorities regularly monitor the spread of smoke and odours from public catering facilities in wedding halls and restaurants. Despite the presence of treatment facilities, protocols are drawn up on the owners of facilities that are found to be emitting excessive emissions due to their lack of maintenance and periodic cleaning of filters, and decisions are made to limit the use of grills at such facilities.

At the same time, various tree planting campaigns are being held, seedlings are being distributed to the population, and measures are being taken to reduce the use of plastic and polyethylene products.

How does Azerbaijan’s air quality affect human health?

Each year, 1.7 million children under the age of five die as a result of unfavourable environmental conditions, especially air and water pollution. This figure accounts for a quarter of all child deaths worldwide.

In developing countries, 12 million children have suffered irreversible brain damage from lead poisoning. In total, about 73 million children and adolescents around the world are forced to work in hazardous conditions and are regularly exposed to toxic substances. Today, more than 90 per cent of children breathe air with high levels of pollution.

The majority of children's diseases related to climate change, environmental degradation and the effects of toxic substances can be prevented through the adoption of effective laws and strategies. However, in many countries, issues related to the protection of children's health are not taken into account when developing environmental action plans.

What is being done to improve the quality of air in Azerbaijan?

The initiative of the First Vice-President of the Republic of Azerbaijan to plant 650,000 trees a day throughout the country on the occasion of the 650th anniversary of the thinker and poet Imadeddin Nasimi on 6th December is one of the greatest contributions to improving the environment in the country. The Deputy Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources said that the initiative of First Vice President serves both present and future generations: “Our goal was 650,000 trees. However, as soon as we received information, we saw that the number of planted trees was more than 650,000".

The Italian Ambassador to Azerbaijan, who took part in the environmental action was quoted as saying that planting 650,000 trees a day will have a positive impact on increasing greenery, reducing the effects of global climate change and will help the intensive absorption of carbon dioxide. Violation of the ecological balance is a matter of global concern. Everyone must do their best to overcome this problem. Therefore, this initiative of the First Vice-President of Azerbaijan to solve environmental problems is highly commendable.

It has been well documented that trees are an important source of oxygen for the survival of all living things in nature. According to experts, one hectare of forest absorbs considerable amounts of carbon dioxide. A city with 50 trees per inhabitant is considered to be ecologically clean. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of large cities with millions of inhabitants. Newly planted trees provide more oxygen. Therefore, it is important to plant new trees regularly, especially in large cities with large populations as a way of cleaning the air.

By the beginning of the 21st century, about half of the forests that once existed had been destroyed, and unfortunately, this process is still ongoing. Forests have a significant impact on the climate and air, the balance of carbon dioxide and is of great sanitary-hygienic and therapeutic importance in direct relation to humans. Green areas play an exceptional role in cleaning the city's air. In 24 hours, a tree synthesizes the oxygen needed for an average of three people to breathe. On a hot sunny day, one hectare of forest absorbs 220-280 kilograms of carbon dioxide and emits 180-200 kilograms of oxygen. One hectare of coniferous trees captures up to 40 tons of dust per year, and deciduous trees up to about 100 tons. Green belts are quite an effective tool for combating harmful emissions from motor vehicles.

Given the special role of greenery in the fight against air pollution, we can estimate how important the initiative to plant 650,000 trees a day is important not only for Azerbaijan but also for the planet. In a few years, these seedlings will grow and the country will be immersed in greenery. As a result, the atmosphere will be cleaned and Azerbaijan will have contributed to the fight against climate change. All this proves once again that measures to combat air pollution in Azerbaijan are in the spotlight.

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