Hans van Zijst

The Air We Breathe

Recorded: September 18, 2013

Hans van Zijst is the founder of the International Network of Green Planners. He reports how the Netherlands is doing with issues related to environmental health (e.g. water quality, air quality). Hans notes that PM10 and PM2.5, small particulate matter, in inner cities is still an issue that stills needs to be addressed in Europe as well as in most cities.

Hans van Zijst is an independent senior advisor of several Dutch ministries, government bodies and public sector companies in infrastructure development, environmental, nature and water affairs, as well as sustainable development. As co-founder of WesselinkVanZijst he specializes in complex issues of government cooperation and public participation.  Hans worked 11 years as a senior consultant for several national and international management consultancy firms.

He started his career as a civil servant in the Dutch Ministry of the Environment (VROM).  During his 16 years at VROM, he worked on a range of national and international strategies for sustainable development and chemicals management, and was a founding member of the International Network of Green Planners.  He is a key spokesman in the US documentary, Green Plans, directed by John deGraaf, that focuses on the Dutch and New Zealand green plans, launched in the early 1990s.  From 1992 – 1994 Hans represented the Netherlands in the United States and Canada as environmental counsel at the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Washington, DC.



Hans van Zijst:    The environmental health situation over time has, has gained a lot of progress.  I mean, it’ll become better and better, particularly in the field of water because water pollution was basically managed quite effectively.  Drinking water is definitely to the world’s standards as you may speak.  Without chlorination it’s done on the biological way and its excellent water.  My main concern would be the exposure to air emission and particularly to particulate matter 10 and maybe there’s still little policy in terms of particle matter 2.5, but that’s coming too, sort of very, very small particulates that may cause COPD and other types of asthmatic diseases.

So I still think that the total sum of dust, nitrous oxide and – but particularly particulate matter is still very much around, particularly in inner cities.  That is monitored quite, quite good, but I mean, monitoring is one, coming off as policies that sort of live up to the expectations of the people that they can live a healthy life within inner cities.  That is still very much a problem that we need to tackle.

We do not match European regulations.  We have had a [unintelligible] towards 2015.  I’m worried that we’re not going to make that date for nitrous dioxide or for particulate matter 10.  So we will have a big fight probably with Brussels, with European Commission, in due time, of the fact that we are simply not managing this correctly.  To some extent it’s not a national problem because this is air pollution, it’s very much a continental problem, which means that we have stuff coming in from France and Germany while our stuff ends up in Denmark and Sweden for example.  But I mean, at least we should do, again this word, our fair share within the European community as a whole and we’re not doing that as we speak and that has a detrimental effect on health.  But water, exposure to chemical substances other than the ones that are airborne, I think we’re doing quite good and the environmental policy plan process, everything that came behind it in the recent years has been effectively improving environmental health.