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Citizen group wins air pollution case against Brussels region

16:51 01/02/2021

A Brussels court has found in favour of five citizens and an NGO who accused the Brussels Capital Region of incorrectly measuring pollution. The region now has six months to install an air quality measuring station on a major artery in the capital, or face a fine of €300 a day.

Client Earth and five citizens who had formed a neighbourhood group to demand that Brussels take steps to improve air quality filed the complaint against the region in 2016. They claimed that the region was underestimating the number of fine particles in the air because they had not placed measuring stations on major thoroughfares.

The local court turned to the European Court of Justice to ask if a government could legally be forced to place air quality measuring systems on the busiest roads. The answer was yes, and the local court then agreed with the complainants that they had the right to accurate air quality figures.

The court ruled that the region must place one or more measuring stations on one or more of the following roads: The R20 (inner ring road), Rue de la Loi and the E40 between Boulevard Auguste Reyers and the border with Flanders.

‘Very happy’

But there’s more. The stations must measure the concentration of nitrogen dioxide, course particulate matter (known as PM10) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). Currently, some stations only measure one or two of these three.

The stations must be up and running within six months. For every day beyond that the stations are not measuring those three substances after that date, the region must pay €300 in fines. It must also pay all court costs involved in the case.

“It’s a day to be happy, despite the grey air and the fact that we are all staying home these days,” Lies Craeynest, one of the five citizens who took the case to court, told Bruzz. “The judge clearly stated that the air quality in Brussels is not measured in accordance with European directives and indicated three concrete places where such a station is appropriate. This will allow us to find out exactly what the situation really is with regard to the most polluted places in Brussels. We are very happy about that.”

The region can choose to appeal the decision, but is still required to place the equipment within six months if a judgment has not come down by that time. According to a spokesperson for environment minister Alain Maron (Ecolo), an appeal is unlikely.

“We are currently studying the decision,” the spokesperson told the paper. “It’s an important judgment that confirms the air pollution problem in the region. We were already planning to install measuring stations on busier streets, something that minister Maron had announced earlier.”

Photo ©Siska Gremmelprez/BELGA

Written by Lisa Bradshaw