The fire at the landfill in Vinča, near Belgrade, which has been burning for a month now, has caused concern among citizens about air pollution in the city although local authorities claim that there is no cause for alarm. This has prompted the Ombudsman of Serbia to react and ask authorities to provide detailed information about conducted measurements.
The Ombudsman of Serbia has asked the institutions responsible for air quality monitoring to provide all the information on the method and the results of measurements conducted due to the fire at Vinča landfill, as well as on the type of pollutants measured.
His request was supported by the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection Rodoljub Šabić who said that the public has the right to be informed about the environment while the authorities are obliged to promptly, fully and objectively inform the public about the monitored levels of pollutants.
The Acting Ombudsman Miloš Janković said in a statement that the citizens have the right to know whether the fire at the landfill has contaminated the air, adding that the contradictory information are causing anxiety and distrust among citizens.
The fire at Vinča landfill broke out on May 18. The Institute of Public Health of Belgrade has been repeatedly saying that it has not detected an increase of harmful substances in the air. Belgrade Mayor Siniša Mali recently said that there is only white methane smoke, not grey, at the landfill and that is not harmful to health.
“Despite the assurances of the Institute of Public Health of Belgrade that the level of detected concentrations of certain chemical compounds cannot have serious consequences for human health, it is at the same time recommended to the vulnerable groups such as senior citizens, pregnant women and children to avoid open space if the smoke occurs,” the Ombudman’s statement said.
Janković said that although the level of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide were checked, there are other highly toxic and carcinogenic substances which, according to scientists and experts, can be released in the air during combustion of waste and that are not measured.
Private partner for Vinča to be chosen in less than month
Vinča landfill is the largest landfill in Belgrade area, and it has been in use since 1977. It stretches over 68 hectares and some 2,700 tons of garbage is disposed of in it daily. The authorities plan to solve this environmental issue through a project which includes treatment of municipal waste and the construction of combined heat and power plant (CHP) at the site.
The City of Belgrade published in late May a call for submission of final bids for public-private partnership (PPP) for the rehabilitation of Vinča landfill. The bid opening will be organized on July 13.
Five companies have been shortlisted from 11 that initially applied, and Mali said that bids of at least three if not all five are expected, naming FCC, Suez, Veolia and Urbaser. He also said that he is expecting bids from at least two French companies.