Smothered by Smog, Polish Cities Rank Among Europe's Dirtiest


In the meantime, the smog is everywhere.

Driving through small villages near Rybnik, about two hours to the northwest of the mountain and one of the cities ranked as the European Union’s most polluted, smoke poured out of the houses that hug the main road.

It was evening, but strangely bright as smoke particles diffused the light from street lamps, creating an eerie orange glow. “This doesn’t look right,” a father said as he hurried past with his son, his jacket pulled above his mouth.

In Krakow, with its majestic castle looming over the old town, many of the buildings are still equipped with furnaces dating back decades. At the beginning of the winter, coal deliverymen make the rounds.

But now so do eco-consultants for the local government, which has undertaken one of the most ambitious projects in the country to wean people off burning coal or wood.

The Krakow government has outlawed the use of the cheapest, most polluting coal, and by 2019, aims to ban all burning of coal and wood.

The government workers try to help residents with the transition to cleaner fuel and furnaces, and guide them to available funds to pay for it.

If the effort succeeds, it may provide a model for other cities around the country. Already it has cut the number of outdated furnaces to about 10,000, from more than double that several years ago.

Other municipalities, like Katowice, about an hour’s drive west of Krakow, are using drones to monitor household emissions.

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