Air pollution scandal in Edinburgh
Well over 4 years ago a small group of residents in Edinburgh first went to the Council with some quesions, and concerns, about the tram project.
The questions were about the seriousness of traffic pollution obvious even the,n and the apparent blind spot within the tram project around what would happen in our city when so much road space formerly used by traffic was being taken by the tram.
At the time we just expected that the questions would be addressed, the problems at least acknowldged, and the answers would be ones we could understand ---- even if we wouldn't like some of them.
That didn't happen....
Instead we became drawn into a process that saw Councillors told by lawyers they couldn't discuss what we were asking them to discuss, a succession of non-answers, each less believable than the one before, a number of false attempts at 'engagement' and increasingly the growing suspicion that the reason we weren't getting any answers was because in the whole of the city council there wasn't anyone with any real answers to give us............................and there still isn't.
The original feasibility study contained a table of data predicting what the expectation was of the effect of the project on the city.(It's in the resources section of this site..search STAG 2003)
The prediction was that the tram project as designed would produce WORSE air quality for 65% of ALL homes in the city.
The Council, it's officers and all the councillors of all parties seem to have just decided this could not possibly be correct---or that if correct the effects would be negligible.
We have asked over and over again in many meetings and forums spread over a number years, why no publicity has been given to this fact, no public discussion around it, no proper health impact study ever done...why absolutely nothing at all was done to question whether the project as planned, the project we have now, was really the best we could get.
Since then we have seen:
----Councillors warned no discussion of the issue can be made by them on pain of personal liability, by lawyers working for a company 100% owned by the council (one which no longer exist having collapsed as a result of it's inepitude)
----Meetings intended to explain the basis of our concern to the key council committee turned into a farce by the convenor, now departed the scene after his party's meltdown in the last council elections, designed only to produce a 'nobody to blame' decision at the end rather than seriously examine the serious problem at the heart of the project.
----The case go all the way to the United Nations in Geneva to a hearing by the Aarhus Convention Compliance committee examining cases of denial of justice by governments to their citizens through suppression of data.
-----The Council's then head of scientific services (another now departed the scene) steadfastly deny the plain reality of where traffic on a city street actually flows--and admit in emails, obtained under FoI requests, that what was being denied by the council in public, could well be true in reality.
-----Say data was being withehld because the resident's 'would only misuse it',
-----And continuing projects, not directly connected to the Tram project, continuing to add more and more to the problem by their (almost invariable) requirements to eliminate more and more road space.
NOW at last we are seeing the evidence pouring forth that traffic created pollution IS serious.
The recent Smogs in London and Paris underlined the problem and brought it to the attention of the ordinary man and woman in the street.
Recent stories finally building on the ever mounting academic research is putting a number of caualties and fatalities to the amount of pollution.
The Council cannot try and hide behind the idea that this problem is one that nothing can be done about, and that affects everywhere and everyone the same.
It IS a difficult problem to solve, and many cities ARE worse than Edinburgh.... but the problems in Edinburgh are not negligible as the figure of hundreds of deaths a year recently published shows.
Our council is possibly unique in pursuing policies that make this problem worse.
Two final facts:
In the Transport and traffic annual review published by the council (Jan 2013) the figures showed traffic DOWN in the city 5% but air pollution levels UP 14%.
The Jan 2014 report ...hasn't been published yet.
This cannot possibly be because it is being held back until after the Tram start party the Council plan to try and keep spinning the disaster into a triumph in case it's numbers spoil the Council Jolly?
We know the tram cannot now be unbuilt ( a typical jibe from some within the idea-bankrupt council) and nor are we car-loving dinosaurs---far from it---- but we do know that until facts are faced and mistakes admitted things can only keep on getting worse...and seeing 14% rises in the stuff that causes over 200 deaths in the city isn't something any Council, however useless, can keep ignoring for ever...is it??