Photo: Vladimir Valishvili/UNDP

Aiming to improve air quality and address the health and environmental hazards associated with air pollution, the Government of Georgia is launching an advanced monitoring system, based on the indicative measurement standards adopted in European Union (EU) member states. A new automatic air quality monitoring network has been set up in four cities – Tbilisi, Rustavi, Kutaisi and Batumi – while air samples are collected on a quarterly basis in 25 municipalities across the country.

Air quality monitoring is the responsibility of the National Environment Agency (NEA) of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture (MEPA).  The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) helped to set up a modern monitoring system in line with Georgia’s commitments under the EU Association Agreement.

The 15-month initiative was implemented by UNDP and NEA with USD 150,000 in funding from the Government of Sweden. The results were summarized at an online conference today, bringing together representatives of the Government, civil society, academia, and national and international experts.

“Georgia has taken important steps to improve environmental monitoring in many areas, including air pollution,” said Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture Nino Tandilashvili. “The new monitoring system is already delivering results, as air quality is improving in some major Georgian cities.”

“Effective measurement is a vital step towards improving air quality,” said UNDP Head Louisa Vinton. “Georgia now has the tools it needs to pinpoint where air pollution is posing the biggest threats to people’s health. We hope the data will drive new measures to address the sources and halt the damage.”

“Environmental monitoring helps reduce pressure on the planet and increase the quality of life. Air quality relates to SDG 11 on sustainable cities and SDG 12 on sustainable consumption and production,” said Khatuna Zaldastanishvili from the Embassy of Sweden. “Sweden is assisting Georgia in developing a new monitoring system that will provide verified data on air quality across the country.”

The automated system monitors air quality in Tbilisi, Rustavi, Kutaisi and Batumi through eight stations that collect data on atmospheric air pollutants round-the-clock, feeding a database that is publicly available at www.air.gov.ge. In another 25 municipalities, the NEA collects samples on major pollutants – carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, ozone and particulate matter – four times a year.

To support the sustainable functioning of the new air quality monitoring system, UNDP helped establish monitoring standards, develop technical maintenance guidelines and train NEA’s technicians.

In addition, NEA introduced tools and policies that support and sustain quality air monitoring in Georgia, equipping MEPA with technical and policy mechanisms needed to align Georgia’s practice with the requirements of the EU’s Clean Air For Europe (CAFE) programme. This includes a new system of data verification and validation, ensuring that high-quality statistical data can be compared across time slots or locations; a regulatory act on monitoring criteria and frequency, prepared in line with EU regulations; and a roadmap identifying the next steps in improving the air quality monitoring network.

Air pollution is increasing at an alarming speed all over the world, pushing counties to introduce new policies and control measures. Worldwide, outdoor air pollution caused an estimated 4.2 million premature deaths in 2016, about 90 percent of them in the low and middle-income countries, according to the World Health Organization.  

The assistance to air quality monitoring is part of a larger “Governance Reform Fund” programme that UNDP implements to support public sector reforms in Georgia with USD 5 million funding from Sweden.

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