The Balkans have a fire, poisoned by the cars and the coal heating

Les Balkans suffoquent, empoisonnés par les voitures et le charbon de chauffage

Photo: Elvis Barukcic Agence France-Presse
The city of Sarajevo is hidden under a white cloud.

Rusmir Smajilhodzic – Agence France-Presse and

Saska Cvetkovska – Agence France-Presse

Sarajevo and Skopje

December 5, 2018

  • Environment

The sellers of air purifiers are only to rub hands : in the winter, the cities of the Balkans, suffocate, be poisoned by cars and coal-fired heating.

Asthmatic 69-year-old Fuad Prnjavorac, is mounted on the mount Trebevic, above Sarajevo, “fill the lungs with oxygen” : “It is terrible in the city, impossible to breathe, to get out for a ride. I cough relentlessly, I choke. “

The city is hidden under a white cloud from which emerges that the television transmitter of the Hum hill. The chimneys are smoking by the thousands, to heat coal or wood 100 000 households in this city where circulate every day 150 000 cars in which the average job tenure is 18 years.

The evil is regional. On Tuesday, the specialized application AirVisual put Skopje in Macedonia in the third rank of the most polluted cities in the world, Sarajevo arriving 5th, in front of Delhi. Also used in the classification as soon as the temperatures drop, Belgrade, or Pristina and its two coal-fired power plants built under communism, as crucial to the production of electricity in Kosovo that are toxic for the atmosphere.

The five cities of the Balkans are among the ten of Europe’s most saturated particulate matter, according to a ranking by 2017 by the world health Organization (WHO) : Tuzla (Bosnia), Pljevlja (Montenegro), Skopje, Tetovo and Bitola (Macedonia).

Human costs are staggering

The human and economic cost is staggering. In a study of 2016, the WHO had estimated that in 2010, the pollution had killed more than 37,000 people in the western Balkans (to 23 million), six times more than in France, in proportion to the population. Since then, no structural action has been taken.

According to a document of January 2018 to the united nations, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, “44 000 life years are lost each year” because of the pollution, the cost of which represents ” more than 21.5 % of the GNP “, in the days of school and work lost, health costs, etc

“The air purifiers are selling like hotcakes. People were emptying their wallets to breathe clean air, at least in the house, ” said Vanco, seller of Skopje, also hemmed in by a bowl. The equipment costs 400 euros, or about an average salary. But the people ” even use it to buy a purifier “, “especially the families with children,” says Vanco, 48 years of age, who does not say his name.

The ministry of Health of macedonia has announced the distribution of masks to 43 000 patients with chronic conditions. Jane Dimeski, an activist group citizen ” STOP air pollution “, sees a ” short-term response […] more than a serious struggle against the pollution “.


In Sarajevo, a city of 340 000 inhabitants where public transport is in a deplorable state, is found in the beginning of December an average of fine particles of 320 µg/m3, with peaks above 400 µg/m3. “I think that there is not currently another city in the world where there are 400 µg dust per m3 for 12 continuous hours “, says Martin Tais, a specialist in bosnian of the quality of the air.

However, the municipality has taken four days to limit the circulation of cars. The schools have not been closed, despite the appeal of the parents ‘ association.

In Skopje, a teacher, Vesna Delevska, 56 years old, also describes a situation “unbearable” : “In three decades of teaching, I have never seen so many children coughing and getting sick. The worst days, many parents even send their children to the school. “

For scholars and activists, it is necessary to take substantive steps to accelerate the transition to the passage of the heating gas, to mobilize public support. But the Balkan countries are poor and the awareness of late.

Anes Podic, head of the association bosnian Eko-Akcija, denounces the ” irresponsibility of the able criminal.” “Someone found that the lungs of the inhabitants of Sarajevo are five times more resistant than those of Paris “, a-t-il ironisé in a recent interview, referring to the alert level set to 80 µg/m3 in the French capital.

Share Button