Authorities can take more efficient steps against illegal burning

On November 29, 2017 a conference was held in the Herman Ottó Institute with the title “The practice of regulatory control over solid fuel burning by households”. The presenters agreed that one of the most severe environmental health problems nowadays originate from the burning of inadequate fuels by households, which can be combated by efficient and standardized regulatory measuresand raising awareness.

The conference is part of the series of measures that the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture has started following the initiative of Clean Air Action Group (CAAG) to decrease the air pollution originating from residential burning According to the experience of NGOs and the residents turning to them for help, the official procedures on illegal burning rarely bring positive results. The reasons, among others, are: the lack of a standardized legal process, the lack of capacity and workforce at authorities, and the difficulty to provide evidence. The target audience of the conference were the officials who work on air quality protection cases. The attendants presented their experiences and practical advices about the official procedures and the possible tools to provide evidence.

A representative of the Ministry of Agriculture presented the professional guidelines sent to all county district offices in order to standardize the procedure and to clarify questions of authority. Employees of the Herman Ottó Institute demonstrated the results of their research conducted on county district offices, and the methods of identifying illegal substances by quick ash testing. Representatives of the government offices of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County and Pest County talked about their experiences gained at first instance and appeal proceedings. An employee of the National Directorate General for Disaster Management presented the experiences gained during chimney sweeping activities.

At the conference, a representative of CAAG also gave a presentation on how these proceedings look like from the point of view of NGOs and residents asking for help. He welcomed that after a long time a common agreement has developed on the need to take serious steps against illegal residential burning. He agreed with the content of the professional guidelines on the procedures, and with the development of detailed guidelines about providing evidences. These steps can pay an important role in cutting back illegal activities. At the same time, the representative of CAAG highlighted that a wider range of governmental measures are also needed, for example, increased controls on waste management activities – especially on illegal waste trade, regulation and controls on firewood trade, a more extensive social firewood program, and the restart of the recently discontinued mandatory chimney inspection.

Translated by Katalin Tarr