Choking In Pollution, Poland Says Coal Is Not A Problem

A woman wears a mask in Krakow earlier this month
A woman wears a mask in Krakow earlier this month
Dominika Wantuch


WARSAW — For the Polish government, coal is nothing to worry about.

Sixteen Polish cities exceeded the annual limit of days with smog in the first two months of this year alone. And still, the government hasn't taken any steps to restrict poisonous coal dust or remove the fossil fuel from the market. Coal is not poisonous, says the Ministry of Energy.

European regulations stipulates that smog days shouldn't exceed 35 days a year. But the Polish cities of Kraków, Nowy Targ and Wodzisław Śląski have already crossed this limit.

Activists from the Podhale Smog Alarm Initiative wrote a letter in January to Prime Minister Beata Szydło: ""We ask you to hold a government session in Nowy Targ. Only in this way will ministers be able to understand how serious the problem of air pollution is in our country." Szydło did not come to the city.

The energy ministry did announce a plan to combat smog but experts say that the proposal won't change anything because it still allows the use of coal dust, slurry and coal flotation concentrate, which are responsible for nearly 70% of pollution in the air.

The Minister of Energy Krzysztof Tchórzewski repeated what Minister of Health Konstanty Radziwiłł had already claimed that coal does not kill.

Tchórzewski added that he does not think banning the sale of coal dust is necessary. This year was the first year that this list of cities exceeded the smog restrictions within 46 days. The European Commission filed a lawsuit against Poland for not meeting the European Union's air quality norms and for not taking steps to reach the target. Poland might have to dole out 4 billion Polish złotych ($982 million) for not complying with EU regulations.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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