Flemish air quality improved
Air quality in Flanders has improved significantly during the past twenty years, figures released by the Flemish environmental organisation VMM show. This positive trend is primarily due to investments made by industry and agriculture. Twenty years ago heavy metals posed a serious problem, but since the year 2000 emissions from metals like lead and mercury have dropped by 64% and 46% respectively. “Efforts from industry to adapt production processes to reduce noxious emission have made a considerable contribution to this turnaround,” the VMM confirms. Flemish Environmental Minister Joke Schauvliege CD&V lauds the positive progress, saying: “The biggest polluters in Flanders have either introduced drastic innovations or end-of-pipe measures like filters on funnels.” In addition they have explored the possible win-win scenarios facilitated by environmentally friendly innovations: “Stricter standards need not have necessarily a negative impact on the economy. The opposite is often true as they encourage industry to develop innovative production processes that are both environmentally friendly and profitable.” Efforts to increase the ozone layer have also received the thumbs up. About ten years ago the hole in the ozone layer caused serious panic, but international agreements have since led to preventative measures and emissions from noxious CFCs from for example deodorants have dropped by 78% since 1995. Particulate matter and nitrogen however remain a problem and even though particulate matter emissions have dropped by 48% since 1995, the threshold is still exceeded regularly each year. Schauvliege admits that efforts in this respect are still needed, and refers to Flemish measures to ensure a greener vehicle fleet and the responsibility of each citizen to contribute through the responsible use of fro example wood-burning stoves.