The topic of today’s discussion by the Gavigude and the Open Society Foundation is the impact of environmental pollution on mental health.
The movement Gavigude (“I’m Suffocating”) will inform the public about the filed lawsuit regarding the damage caused to the mental health of the members of the movement due to air pollution in Rustavi.
Due to industrial pollution, the right to live in an environment that is safe for health, granted by Article 29 of the Constitution, is violated in Rustavi daily. Accordingly, 130,000 people live in an environment dangerous to their health and life. If we take into account the residents in the surroundings of Rustavi, air pollution affects even more people.
The existing industrial facilities in the city do not meet the air protection requirements, they do not have filters/air dust collection devices and their production process is not carried out in accordance with the standards, which was confirmed by the inspections carried out by the Department of Environmental Supervision.
One of the most important achievements in 2021 was the improvement of air quality legislation.
Despite the legislative changes, the situation has not actually improved in terms of air pollution in the city. The population of the city of Rustavi has been living in an unbearable situation for several years now due to the discomfort caused by air pollution, health problems, and the stress associated with the expected, harmful consequences of this pollution.
The plaintiffs provide similar descriptions of the situation in Rustavi. The black exhaust coming from the pipes of Rustavi enterprises is visible to everyone, and it gathers as poisonous clouds over the city. It is visible to the naked eye and there are many photos showing the view of Rustavi from above covered with smog, which is the result of industrial emissions.
Ambient air pollution causes many inconveniences to plaintiffs every day. The plaintiffs point out that living is unbearable in the city because of the highly polluted air. Rustavi is permeated with the smell of exhaust fumes and burning smoke, which is why people often try to avoid moving around the city and even opening windows to cool off. Opening windows makes the house dirtier instead of letting in the fresh air. All this becomes especially unbearable in summer when the temperature is high. The laundry hanging outside gets dirty and reeks of fumes. The plaintiffs are suffering from a lack of air.
Plaintiffs describe the harmful effects of air pollution on their health, which manifest in a variety of ways: spasms caused by inhalation of air, allergic reactions, difficulty breathing, anxiety, high blood pressure, lack of oxygen in the blood, heart problems, nervous disorders related to air pollution, headache, sore throat, allergic rhinitis, anemia, dryness and/or pain in nose and throat.
When describing the detrimental effects of air pollution, plaintiffs single out harm to mental health. The fact that the plaintiffs know and acknowledge the harmful effects of air pollution on physical health makes the situation even worse.
On the basis of the health condition evaluation reports issued by psychiatrists, various types of problems caused by the effects of air pollution can be identified. In particular, we can find from the reports that the plaintiffs experience emotional tension, stress, anxiety, low mood, and worry about their own and family members’ current and future health. Particular distress is caused by constant monitoring of air pollution quality and frequently recorded negative indicators. In a separate case, the plaintiff experienced a decrease in attention concentration and a mild depressive episode due to the influence of environmental conditions. Also, sleep and adaptation disorders occur in some cases.