Prathap Nair in Stuttgart
Thursday 2 March 2017 07.30 GMT
Jallow, 54, lives in Neckartor, an area chock-a-block with residential buildings hugged by a busy road, B14, which handles around 100,000 vehicles a day.
Neckartor is a hotspot for air pollution, not just in Stuttgart but in the whole of Germany. PM10 values (coarse dust particles between 10 and 2.5 micrometres in diameter) recorded on sensors installed in the busy intersection of B14 often hit around 200 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m³). EU standards set the top limit of safe PM10 levels at 50µg/m³.
On this particular evening, however, Jallow came home and checked the readings on a sensor hanging from her balcony, provided to her as part of an open data citizen initiative called Luftdaten (“air data”), and found that it had recorded 300µg/m³.
Keen to draw attention to the scale of Stuttgart’s problem, Jallow and her neighbour Peter Erben – both members of local citizens’ forum BI Initiative – lodged a criminal complaint on 23 January against the city’s mayor, Fritz Kuhn, and the district president, Wolfgang Reimer. The complaint accuses the officials on two counts: bodily injury with death as a consequence (due to air pollution), and lack of assistance.
The issue was immediately picked up by local media. “We wanted to highlight the bureaucratic apathy of the city administration. There is a pressing need for more proactive measures to combat air pollution. The existing ones are inadequate,” says Erben.
He suspects other neighbourhoods in Stuttgart are just as in danger of air pollution from PM10 and nitrogen dioxide as Neckartor is. “Right now, the official explanation is that only Neckartor suffers from bad air in all of Stuttgart. I don’t necessarily think that is true.”