Antwerp is one of 50 most-polluted cities in the world


Satellite imagery of nitrogen dioxide concentrations show that Antwerp has the fourth-highest concentration in Europe and is in the top 50 in the world

Ditch the diesel, says Greenpeace

According to a satellite imagery released by the European Space Agency (ESA), the city of Antwerp has the fourth-largest concentration of nitrogen dioxide in Europe and is in the top 50 of the world’s most polluted regions.

The imagery was analysed by Greenpeace Belgium, which reports that in Europe, only Greater London, the Ile-de-France region, which includes Paris, and the Nordrhein-Westfalen region of Germany have higher concentration of nitrogen dioxide than Antwerp.

Greenpeace created an interactive map based on the data. Aside from the four European regions, China dominates the top 50 – with 10 of the most-polluted areas – followed by India, the United States and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, all with three.

While not as bad as Antwerp, a large part of Belgium has high concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, which can cause respiratory problems, especially in children. West Flanders is quite clear as is most of Wallonia, outside of Charleroi and Liège. But Brussels, most of Flemish Brabant, most of East Flanders, all of Antwerp province and the northern half of Limburg are considered polluted.

One of the factors in Antwerp is the presence of the port and related industry. “But the high concentrations of nitrogen dioxide across so much of the country has mostly to do with the number of diesel-fuelled cars that are on our roads,” said Joeri Thijs of Greenpeace. “For our health, and certainly the health of our children, that traffic is the biggest culprit. Because we are exposed to it from much closer by and much more often than emissions from the smokestacks at the port of Antwerp.”

Thijs says that the ESA imagery should serve as “a wake-up call” to politicians. “Antwerp politicians and those in the other larger cities shouldn’t push these findings under the carpet,” he says. “Our cities can take the lead in bidding a farewell to diesel-fuelled vehicles – and after that petrol-fuelled vehicles – and provide healthier mobility options with less traffic and better alternatives to the car.”

“This is something we need to work on further,” admitted Antwerp mayor Bart De Wever, speaking to VRT. “We’re on the right path, and we have plans in the pipeline to improve further.”

Antwerp brought in a low-emission zone in early 2017, which bans cars that do not meet the minimum Euronorm from entering the city centre and Linkeroever. “We are already within European norms for nitrogen dioxide,” said De Wever, “but we need to get to the strictner norm set by the World Health Organization.”

This article was updated on 30 October