Coal-powered Balkan countries pollute more than whole of EU
By Snezana Stanojevic
Belgrade, Nov 4 (EFE).- As the European Union continues to reduce its reliance on coal, the Balkan countries on its doorstep are still heavily dependent on the fossil fuel, polluting more than the rest of Europe combined and causing severe damage to the local population.
The main energy production plants in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Kosovo and Montenegro are powered by coal, a raw material that is abundant in the region.
While coal guarantees these countries’ energy security and employs tens of thousands of people, the infrastructure and technology date back to the 1950s and are out of date, delaying the transition to cleaner energy sources.
What’s more, negligence and a lack of enforcement of environmental regulations have contributed to excessive pollution at these plants, which cause thousands of deaths in the region.
Goran Stojak, an activist in Tuzla (northern Bosnia), lives close to a power plant and warns of premature deaths among local residents.
“Here the whole town has some kind of illness. The grey dirt is worse in the winter, but even in summer, spring and autumn the air is filthy. Cancer is like a virus around here,” says Stojak, whose father died of cancer.
Bronchitis and asthma are also common among local children: “People talk about it among themselves, and there is no one who does not know someone who is affected by it.”
Political leaders “do nothing” to help the population, he adds.
In neighboring Montenegro, a study by local authorities and the World Health Organization (WHO) attributes one in five deaths in Pljevlja, an industrial zone with a coal mine and a thermoelectric plant, to air pollution.