In an interview with Blendi Fevziu, Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj claimed that the reconstruction of the Skënderbeg has had an impact on lowering the level of air pollution to below the allowed EU norm, while it has also prevented the growth of traffic.
Veliaj claimed that Tirana had inherited an underground investment that was drafted to contain water and fountains that made the original project better. According to Veliaj, the square was initially planned without any green areas, whereas the new project has a 50/50 ratio between concrete and vegetation
We decided to utilize the investment made by Rama in 2008. Essentially, today the Environmental Inspectorate has announced the results and for the first time today, Tirana is ranked under the norm allowed by the EU. These are facts.
However, unfortunately the truth is different.
It has only been a couple of days since the opening of the square and the effects it will have on the air are hard to measure in such a short period of time.
Also, during these days, the weather in Tirana has been lightly windy; therefore the air in the city center has cleared naturally on its own.
The green area around the square, different from Veliaj’s claims, has actually been reduced by 12,000 sq.m. The park surrounding the National Museum on the side of the center ring is 32,000 sq.m. Whereas the former park in front of the National Bank has been paved with tiles. The same applies to the park that used to be in front of the Skënderbeg monument.
The plants talked about, are around a few dozen, often planted along the existing sidewalks in front of the Municipality building and the Palace of Culture, as well as in the existing parks. However, the square was inaugurated before it was finished so maybe the Municipality will continue the planting of 2,200 trees. However, this seems very unrealistic.
The 100 fountains, which resemble more to water stream, might have a cooling effect but they do not clean the particles of dust called PM10 (metallic particles emitted in the air by motor vehicles).
The biggest effect of the square, in fact, has been a slowing down and clogging of the traffic. The narrow lanes with 8 traffic lights only serve to increase the time cars have to wait as well as the number of kilometers they have to drive. The traffic jams increase the number of cars that are turned on while staying side by side for a long time, increasing their fuel consumption; all of this combined increases the amount of unhealthy PM10 dust particles.
Therefore the opening of the new square, a very expensive and propagandistic public space, to this day seems to only serve two purposes: air pollution and traffic jams.