Zuhal Demir, minister of Environment for the Flemish government and affiliated to the Flemish nationalist party N-VA, states in the newspaper ‘De Morgen’ that the air quality in Flanders has evolved positively over the years. She claims that in response to an open letter in Flemish newspaper ‘De Standaard’ from journalist Nick Meynen, in which he asks her not to let the Flemish people suffocate. Although the Flemish air quality does not meet European standards, minister Demir’s statement is correct.
In a report of the VMM, the Flemish Environment Agency, Demir’s statement is confirmed. The report discusses the emissions from 2000 to 2016 and the air quality in 2017. It states that the air quality was better in 2017 than it was ten years ago. There has been a distinct reduction in particulate matter, sulphur dioxide and heavy metals.
Still need for improvement
Despite this, according to the VMM report, Flanders still does not meet the European annual limit value for nitrogen dioxide and exceeds the European targets for ozone, sulphur dioxide and arsenic 2. The source of emissions lies mainly in agriculture and transport.
Vegetation is very much affected by air pollution. In order to maintain biodiversity, Flanders still needs to make a major improvement.
It is also shown that part of the population suffers from physical complaints as a result of air pollution, and sometimes even dies prematurely as a result. This also affects Flanders economically, medical costs are rising and productivity is decreasing due to work disability.
In short, we can conclude that Flanders is on the right track, but needs to take further action for health reasons. Even for substances that comply with the European legislation. Having said that, minister Demir’s claim is true.
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RESEARCH | ARTICLE © AP University college, Antwerp, Belgium