More than five thousand people gathered at the second protest in Belgrade for harmless air, to warn of severe air pollution in the country. Informal environmentalist organization Eko straža organized the event, supported by environmentalist organizations and disgruntled citizens from all parts of Serbia.
Over five thousand citizens, more than at the January protest, walked to the central Republic Square with placards and slogans like “For Serbia without smog” and “The air is harmful.”
Together with the disgruntled citizens of Belgrade, who were affected for several days by pollution from a major fire at the Vinča landfill, people from Kovin and Popovac, the cities of Kragujevac and Smederevo and local activist groups gathered at the event.
During the ten-day fire, two million people were exposed to toxic matter such as dioxins and furans, representatives of Eko straža said.
Citizens have authority
Citizens of Serbia have the right to be the competent authority and to criticize institutions and evaluate their work regardless of the elections, the moderator said at the protest, emphasizing that all those who say the organization has political motives and that it is financed from abroad are actually trying to discourage citizens to protest.
“This is a fight for health in Serbia and for our lungs,” she underscored.
Founder of Eko straža Bojan Simišić also spoke at the gathering. In a short time, he rallied tens of thousands of disgruntled citizens from all parts of Serbia who face a big air pollution problem almost every day. He asserted that he didn’t want representatives of the participating groups to get on stage, but to let experts speak.
The protesters demand accurate and complete information on air pollution, together with an environment protection strategy, and for the measures and results to be monitored
Simišić said the authorities have thirty days to respond to the demand. He called on the crowd to also join the other environmental protest, scheduled for September 11 in Belgrade.
Eko straža and the organizations that supported the gathering are demanding accurate and complete information on air pollution, together with an environment protection strategy, and for the measures and results to be monitored. They published a list of pollution hotspots including those in Beočin, Kovin, Vinča and Bor.
Serbia should ban waste burning
The exposure to polluted air lowers intelligence and the effects can be felt hundreds of kilometers away from the source, which is where the issue must be tackled, said Dragana Đorđević from the Institute for Chemistry, Technology and Metallurgy at the University of Belgrade.
Đorđević: We demand a ban on burning waste materials
“We demand from the government to cancel all permits for industrial facilities to incinerate waste materials, as they don’t have systems for the treatment of waste gases. We also demand for the government to place a ban on selling raw lignite to households and the same goes for different waste oils, municipal waste and used tires,” she stated.
Serbia is a gas chamber in the winter, while in the summer illegal landfills are on fire as Serbia didn’t regulate waste management – there are more than a thousand illegal landfills,” Dragana Đorđević stressed.
As much public pressure as possible
Professor at the Faculty of Physics Vladimir Đurđević warned agricultural producers would be burning stubble for the next several weeks and that pollution would increase as the heating season goes on, possibly followed by more landfill fires next summer. “The only tool we have in our hands is to rally as often as possible and make as much pressure as possible,” he said.
All the most developed countries became such exactly because they protected the environment, Đurđević added. “If you look at the economic path of any developed country, you will see that as they got richer, their air became cleaner,” he pointed out.