Residents around the North Circular Road and Phibsboro Road junction have to keep their windows closed due to air quality issues, according to Dublin Central TD Gary Gannon.
The National Transport Authority’s solution for the junction as part of BusConnects is to provide bus lanes by narrowing footpaths and removing cycle lanes, rather than reducing car space and priority.
The Social Democrats TD said that plans need to be urgently drawn up to correct the air pollution issue as substantial damage is done is being done to residents’ health.
In a debate on air quality, Gannon said: “It is not an exaggeration to say that Phibsboro junction in my constituency is literally riddled with air pollution. Locals say the smell and the heaviness of the air are inescapable as are the negative effects on one’s body.”
“Some in the area, including businesses, feel they are forced to keep their windows closed as what is allowed in when they open them is the furthest thing from clean. In a world where we have rightly become sensitive to the underlying health conditions of the immunocompromised, we cannot stand for our residential areas violating EU air quality limits, which clearly outline a danger to our well-being,” he said.
Gannon said: “Although anybody caught in traffic at Phibsboro junction for just minutes could explain the dearth of clean air at Doyle’s Corner, we now have statistics painting a dire picture of this reality. Under the EU air quality directive, countries must limit air pollution to below 40 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide per cubic metre an hour on average over the course of a year, among other thresholds… Phibsboro junction has now exceeded the EU air quality directive limits, at times reaching a monumental and unacceptable 60 micrograms per cubic metre.”
He said when the EU levels were surpassed in Kilmainham in 2019, Dublin City Council drew up an air quality plan that outlined traffic management, pedestrianisation, cycling projects and the discouragement of car ownership in that area.
The EU limits are far less stringent than recommended by the WHO, he said: “Horrifyingly, the World Health Organization states this number should not even exceed ten micrograms.”
He added: “Sadly, it is not just this one crossroads in my constituency that suffers from unacceptable air quality. Amiens Street, much of the quays and some other areas of East Wall suffer the same fate, while residents in areas such as Stoneybatter, Drumcondra and Cabra wonder when they will be next. With so many areas in Dublin experiencing this phenomenon, we have reached a point of urgency that demands the attention of the Dáil and not just local authorities.”
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Ossian Smyth, responded in the Dail and said the issue of clean air is “close to my heart”.
Minister Smyth saod: “Clean air is fundamental to our well-being and quality of life and is essential for the health of the environment on which we depend. People have no choice about the air they breathe. We have an important role in developing policies that deliver clean air, hence the high priority given to improving Ireland’s air quality in the current programme for Government.”
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He said: “The results of the Google Project Air View Dublin study are interesting. They show that while our overall air quality is generally good, there remain a number of localised issues of concern. It is important to note that the measurements taken as part of this project provide useful insights and indicative data but are not of the frequency, quality or accuracy required under EU legislation for comparison with current EU limits or World Health Organization guidelines.”
Minister Smyth said that the number of official monitoring stations has increased from 29 in 2017 to 116 this month, which he said was above the EU requirement for 30 stations.
But he said additional stations are not planned for the national network “as we are now moving to a modelling and forecasting system through the Life Emerald project” which will “fill in the gaps between monitoring stations”.
Depirty Gannon said: “I thank the Minister of State for his comprehensive response. I do not doubt for a second how close the issue is to his heart. The issue is also close to my heart and the hearts of the people in my constituency of Dublin Central who seem to be disproportionately impacted by it. Inner-city communities are, by their very nature, areas that are going to be disproportionately impacted by a multitude of different issues”
“One that is very hard to separate ourselves from is the inequality of clean air. That is very much what were talking about in Phibsborough, around Seán McDermott Street, along the quays, into East Wall and around Sheriff Street. This problem is having consequences for the health of the population in my constituency,” he said.
On the potential for a low-emission zone, Depirty Gannon asked: “Has any consideration been given to such a suggestion? I know it comes with complications, particularly regarding the inequity of the people can afford electric vehicles and those who cannot. That needs to be dealt with if that consideration is to be advanced. What practical measures can we take that we can introduce quickly?
Minister Smyth said: “The Deputy also mentioned low-emission zones. This is a proposal from Dublin City Council, as I understand. I am happy to go back to it… I am happy to talk to the Deputy about that or meet the council with the Deputy if he wishes.”