While the official report may not be published until September, National Ecological Association (NEA) already issued an analysis of air pollution data in Serbia for last year. Nine measuring stations in the government’s network showed higher concentrations of PM2.5 than in the most polluted cities in the European Union.
The state administration is continuing to deny at all levels that Serbia has a serious issue with air pollution, but Belgrade is the most polluted city in Europe with more than one million inhabitants, National Ecological Association revealed in its analysis of the data from the government’s measuring stations for 2021.
Over three million people officially breathe air that is more polluted than allowed, but the presence of suspended particles PM2.5 and PM10 is measured in areas with only half of the population. The most extreme levels of PM2.5 were registered in Novi Pazar and Valjevo, while the mining city of Bor is off the charts when it comes to exposure to sulfur dioxide.
The air is classified as clean mostly in the cities that don’t have continuous monitoring of the fine dust. High concentrations of PM10 or PM2.5 are responsible for excessive pollution in most places where it is registered.
The Serbian Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) usually publishes the annual report only in September of the following year.
PM pollution affects almost entire population everywhere it is measured
NEA said 2.4 million people or 93% of the population of the cities where PM pollution is measured are exposed to excessive concentrations in the form of illegal annual mean values or the number of days with excessive daily mean levels.
There are nine locations in Serbia that would rank worse in the PM2.5 category than the most polluted city in the EU according to the new classification – all annual mean values above 25 micrograms per cubic meter are marked as very polluted.
The new system doesn’t even include annual mean concentrations above 35 micrograms anymore, but they were registered in Serbia in Novi Pazar, at the Radinac station in Smederevo (next to a steel plant), in Valjevo and in Kosjerić, which is home to a cement production facility. Still, the Smederevo unit was turned on just last month so the data doesn’t cover the full year.
The EU doesn’t even recognize anymore the PM2.5 pollution levels that the people of Novi Pazar, Smederevo, Valjevo and Kosjerić were exposed to last year
The village of Popovac, where the Moravacem cement plant is operating, had the highest presence of PM10 in the air after Novi Pazar and Valjevo. As for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), Beograd Mostar in the center of Belgrade won the unwanted title, followed by Užice and another location in Smederevo – Carina.
Belgrade has had excessively polluted air for six years in a row now and it is officially the most polluted city in Europe with more than one million people, the report adds. Only 12 out of 29 cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants have governmental stations for automatic monitoring of PM particles, the authors said. Kragujevac, Zrenjanin, Leskovac and Kruševac have more than 100,000 people each, but they are not included in the network.
It means 1.35 million people in cities or 19% of the entire population isn’t informed on the quality of air unless they use data from the so-called citizens’ monitoring system, a network of personal devices.
People of Bor also suffering from arsenic, heavy metals
The results of laboratory analysis of suspended particles are late, NEA pointed out, explaining its report therefore lacks the data on the heavy metal content.
Almost at every point where PM10 is measured in real time, there are excessive levels according to at least one of two criteria: the number of days with a daily mean that is higher than allowed and the annual mean pollution above the threshold.
The citizens of Bor breathe scary quantities of SO2 and arsenic, to say the least
As for Bor, the mining hub is the only place for now where the risk of high concentrations of SO2 has been identified. All three stations top the list according to several criteria for the dangerous compound. The presence of arsenic in the finest suspended particles has been extremely elevated for several years and it gets to levels 90 times higher than allowed, while the situation is the same with heavy metals – lead, cadmium, nickel, copper.
Experts from NEA urged decision makers to reveal how much the emissions of pollutants into the air from thermal power plants, the industry and small and individual furnaces have been reduced in the past five years. They also asked how much funds collected under the polluter pays principle have been invested in the protection and improvement of the environment on the national, regional and local levels and what is the rate of implementation of local action plans for reducing air pollution.