Air pollution levels in Krakow reached record levels in March and the city has no plan for tackling the problem. Literally no plan. The local government regards slowly suffocating its citizens to death as no big deal. If you want a breath of relatively clean air in this town it’s now advisable to squat down behind standing traffic and suck the fumes directly from exhaust pipes.
Below is a thing I wrote when I was feeling particularly annoyed about this and turned to the infallible weapon of satire. In the cold light of retrospection I feel even more annoyed – a lot of people are going to die younger than they might have because of all the PM10s floating around in our air – you or I might be one of them.
As air pollution in Krakow continues to exceed dangerous levels, surprising advice has been issued to residents. Peak pollution days over the winter saw schools closed and suggestions that vulnerable individuals stay indoors. Recent guidelines include holding your breath for short periods as you walk from your door to your car and a plan to use military helicopters to dispel smog. Inhaling deeply before stepping outside and then breathing as little as possible during short journeys on foot has been recommended as a sensible way of reducing exposure to particulate matter. Laughing, yawning and singing in the open air are also identified as risky activities.
Fresh ideas for tackling the smog itself have also been unveiled. Overflights by squadrons of military helicopters from the nearby Krakow-Balice Air Base have been touted as a way of disrupting the temperature inversions that trap polluted air over the city. On bad days, the helicopters could be used to hover at 500 metres, sucking smut-laden air to greater altitudes. Locals have begun calling Krakow ‘Londyn nad Wisłą’ (London on the Vistula) following a winter plagued by smogs reminiscent of the famed ‘pea soupers’ that afflicted the British capital in the 1950s. Suggestions that vehicle traffic in the city centre should be restricted or that smoke-producing fuels should be banned have been dismissed as absurd.