The Defend the Rivers of Mt. Stara Planina movement has scheduled a protest called Ecological Pressure for April 10 in Belgrade. The trigger was the failure by the Government of Serbia to withdraw the construction permit for the small hydropower plant in Rakita, but the main cause is the citizens’ discontent as the state authorities have been ignoring the danger that numerous environmental issues pose for public health and the environment.
Extreme air pollution and the destruction of rivers from the construction of small hydropower plants have persisted for years, while planned investments such as Rio Tinto’s jadarite mine and Linlong’s tire factory only made the situation worse.
For three months now the state is delaying the decision on the withdrawal of the construction permit for SHPP in Rakita
Aleksandar Jovanović Ćuta from the Defend the Rivers of Mt. Stara Planina movement recently said the construction permit for the SHPP in Rakita should be revoked because it is “a collection of heavy crimes,” and gave the government a deadline by March 7 to do so.
Three months ago, the Ministry of Construction, Infrastructure and Transport initiated the procedure for revoking the construction permit, but to date it has not made any decision.
Ćuta: An absolute apocalypse or ecocalypse is about to occur
Jovanović said the protest, called Ecological Pressure, would be held on April 10 and added that an absolute apocalypse or “ecocalypse” is about to occur.
“Those who classify us in the category of biological minimum will soon face the wrath of the people because we have no air to breathe and water to drink,” he stated on Nova S TV.
Jovanović said that wherever investors’ excavators appear, they would run into barricades or that people will dismantle them. “We will use force to prevent any attack on our rivers,” he added.
According to him, the investors are the only ones to lose money if the activities that harm the environment are stopped.
These are private individuals to whom the state gave the rivers to use for 12 years, and people will pay for it through their bills, he said.
Everyone in Serbia will be affected by air pollution
As in previous years, the heating season is the period when air pollution is the most severe. In recent days, unfavorable meteorological conditions in Belgrade and Serbia are contributing to air pollution levels. According to the AirVisual application, the US AQI index in Belgrade reached values above 300, which means that pollution is considered hazardous for health.
Last year, 7,500 people in Serbia died from air pollution
Air quality monitoring expert Milenko Jovanović said that according to the methodology of the World Health Organization, 7,500 people in Serbia died from air pollution last year.
Everyone in Serbia will be affected by air pollution, he stressed, adding that it is possible to reduce air pollution within five years.
In December 2020, he was fired because he reacted after the Serbian Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) loosened the standard for displaying the categories of air quality.
Almost 50,000 signatures collected for petition against jadarite mine
Despite the discontent of the residents of the Loznica area, mining giant Rio Tinto has announced the construction of the jadarite mine for next year.
Miroslav Mijatović, an activist from the Podrinje Anti-Corruption Team (PAKT), said a petition signed by 32,000 citizens of Serbia was submitted to Prime Minister Ana Brnabić and that the number of signatures increased to 48,000 in the meantime.
Rio Tinto chose Serbia because our institutions do not do their job
According to Mijatović, Serbia’s Law on Mining and Geological Exploration explicitly states that mining in Serbia cannot be done by anyone who has unpaid obligations for environmental protection.
“We offered evidence that Rio Tinto, wherever it was, whether it was Papua New Guinea, Madagascar, causes great problems so even the army had to intervene,” he asserted.
Mijatović said that, at the meeting, the Prime Minister told them: “We are not the United Nations.”
It is the reason why Rio Tinto has chosen Serbia, because the country’s institutions are not doing their job, he said.
In the next 60 years, 90 million tons of tailings will be generated in the Jadar valley
Mijatović estimated that the jadarite mine would generate 90 million tons of tailings in the next 60 years. The material will constantly threaten the whole of western Serbia, he added.
The construction of a tyre factory in Zrenjanin is another example where citizens cannot get an answer to a simple question: Will the investment of China’s company Linglong endanger human health and the environment? Three weeks ago in Novi Sad, citizens were again prevented from attending the presentation of an environmental impact assessment study.