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Why should there be an Eco-manager in every Polish municipality?

Published by Joanna Kiersnowska

Why should there be an Eco-manager in every Polish municipality?

Doors that do not close, why should there be an Eco-manager in every Polish municipality? Is it worthwhile, is it worth it? The questions are answered by representatives of the Malopolska Region municipalities in which the LIFE – Małopolska in a healthy atmosphere project is implemented.

In the interests of the air quality in the Malopolska Region, the Marshal’s Office is making efforts to speed up the implementation of activities planned under the Air Quality Plan. One of them is the coordination of the LIFE Project, thanks to which 55 Malopolska Region municipalities decided to employ 60 Eco-managers – specialists in the field of air protection. We asked municipal authorities how they assess the work of Eco-managers and see the effects of their actions.

What is the attitude of the inhabitants of the municipality to their Eco-manager?

Rafał Kukla, the Head of Gorlice:
Very positive! I can hear many favorable opinions about him. Residents are satisfied because they have someone to turn to for grants for the replacement of their heat source or for the installation of renewable energy sources. The Eco-manager honestly informs about the available subsidy programs, advises on the selection of the appropriate heating device, informs about modern technologies available on the market. And this directly translates into financial benefits.

Tomasz Żak, the Head of Andrychów:
The door to the Eco-manager who works in the municipal office in Andrychów often does not close. Residents come in person or call with questions about the possibility of obtaining co-financing for furnace replacements. What is more, it is a common question which furnaces meet the requirements of the current anti-smog resolution and what can currently be used in domestic furnaces for heating. In the heating season, when air quality sensors indicate high exceedances, it happens that an Eco-manager must explain to residents what it is caused by and what the municipality is doing to improve the air condition. Residents also want to take photos of their buildings with a thermal camera.

The problem of air quality is becoming more and more important for the society in many municipalities in Poland. How can municipalities deal with the problem of air pollution? What actions should the authorities undertake for this purpose?

Albert Bartosz, the Head of the Oświęcim Municipality:
The action that should be put in the first place is the quest to change consciousness. Increasing knowledge about the risks associated with smog and the causes of its formation is a necessary condition for the effective elimination of the problem. The greatest challenge is changing the mentality of the society, starting with waste incineration practices being the most harmful in the context of low emission. Education is the most important thing. Providing inhabitants with the possibility of expert advice from a specialized office employee should also be an important element of local government’s activities.

It is not frequent that an official joins in school and civic education by reaching: schools, kindergartens and even universities of the third age. What is the public perception of this type of activities? How does an Eco-manager perform well in this role?

Tomasz Żak, the Head of Andrychów:
Meetings with the Eco-manager are very popular. Information about the first workshop for children very quickly spread among the schools located in the municipality. Our Eco-manager meets students and seniors belonging to the Association of the University of the Third Age in Andrychów and ladies from the circle of rural housewives. Residents are eager to participate in educational meetings. I believe that the officer’s meetings outside the office are positively received by the residents.

Dariusz Marczewski, the Head of Miechów:
Ecological education, especially among children, is an important element. Children and teenagers are the most important recipients of this type of activities. Coming home, after classes with our Eco-manager, they often make their parents, grandparents and older siblings aware of the need for protecting the air. The competitions we organize as part of the LIFE project are also very popular. The winners of the competitions are invited to an Eco-picnic. This is an event that takes place during the largest outdoor event organized annually in our city. I think that our residents are positive about the work of our Eco-manager.

Does the work of the Eco-manager translate into specific investment projects in the municipality?

Rafał Kukla, the Head of Gorlice:
Thanks to the involvement of the Eco-manager, we have installed a comprehensive monitoring of the air quality. It turned out that the investment has a very good educational overtone. People are beginning to be interested in what is happening in the air, what pollution we have where in the area of Gorlice and how to protect against it, and – how to prevent the increase of the air pollution. It all blends together: education, information and action.
Last year, we made sure that under the PONE program, old tiled stoves were liquidated in a dozen or so municipal premises. In several dozen households, with the aid of co-financing, old coal furnaces were replaced with modern gas condensing ones. We will systematically be modernizing heating sources, which will surely translate into improved air quality in Gorlice.

Is it and why necessary to improve the air quality in Poland, as seen in the presence of the air quality specialist in the municipality?

Albert Bartosz, the Head of Oświęcim Municipality:
It is definitely necessary. Eco-managers are employees comprehensively trained and prepared to perform their functions. This possibility was provided by external funds, which is a huge aid and a chance for the local government. Each municipality should start activities in the field of air protection, first of all, raising the ecological awareness of its inhabitants. Educational activities are a condition for the effective implementation of other programs, mainly with respect to financial incentives aimed at replacing furnaces. Caring for the state of the air is our absolute duty not only to ourselves, but above all to our children.

To sum up, the work of Eco-managers brings tangible benefits and is a great help for heads and mayors in the field of air protection activities. Their activities are popular and raise awareness among residents. Going out of the office with initiatives and substantive advice translate into growing social trust. Leaders of partner municipalities agree that such a support of the Eco-manager is needed in every Polish municipality.