Several thousand citizens have protested in Belgrade due to excessive air pollution. They walked from Slavija square to the building of the Government of Serbia, where they handed over their demands.
The main slogan of the protest for harmless air was For Serbia without Smog. The basic request is that state institutions protect the citizens’ constitutional right to a healthy environment, which is now endangered by polluted air, the construction of small hydropower plants and planned investments in dirty technology.
The protest was organized by Eko Straža.
Citizens gathered in Slavija square, from where they walked behind the banner For Serbia without Smog to the seat of the Government of Serbia in Nemanjina street. Among the two to three thousand protesters there were parents with children, while most wore protective masks.
In front of the government’s building, Bojan Simišić from Eko Straža, professor Vladimir Đurđević from the Faculty of Physics, Aleksandar Jovanović Ćuta from the Defend the Rivers of Mt. Stara Planina movement, and Dragana Đorđević, an advisor at the Institute of Chemistry, Technology and Metallurgy (IHTM), addressed the protesters.
Protests must be more frequent to make the government do something
Bojan Simišić from Eko Straža said the citizens gathered to defend the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia.
“For us, clean air and a healthy environment are guaranteed by article 74 of the constitution, and we came here to exercise our right,” he said, adding it is the beginning of a long struggle for environmental protection in Serbia.
Simišić stressed the government established a working group a year ago to tackle air pollution and only held one meeting, attended only by politicians and no experts, and that there are no results.
The beginning of a long struggle for environmental protection in Serbia
The protest organizers urge for short-term and long-term measures for reducing air pollution and timely information on air quality, he noted.
The demands include urgent measuring of emissions from coal-fired power plants and heavy industry by independent laboratories, to increase transparency in the preparation of environmental impact assessments, a public debate on energy transition, the abolishment of subsidies for new electric and hybrid vehicles, and for Milenko Jovanović, the fired head of air quality monitoring department at Serbian Environmental Protection Agency, to be reinstated.
It can no longer be hidden that the air is polluted
“We are here because health is priceless, and health is endangered if we breathe polluted air,” said Dragana Đorđević, an advisor at the Institute of Chemistry, Technology and Metallurgy (IHTM).
Professor Vladimir Đurđević from the Faculty of Physics asserted protests should be used more often as a tool for improving air quality.
“We have now learned that the air quality is bad. We see it on mobile apps every day, so we no longer need that kind of monitoring, but we need the implementation of measures that will prevent it to be monitored,” Đurđević stated.
Aleksandar Jovanović Ćuta from the Defend the Rivers of Mt. Stara Planina movement sent a message to the Government of Serbia.
“I say to them and their strategic partners with which they are concluding secret agreements, such as Rio Tinto, Linglong, and others who have come here to poison us: you will no longer soak our country with poison, you will not put our rivers in pipes, you will not give our water sources to Coca-Cola, you will not poison our children with sulfur dioxide,” Jovanović said and added there would be no negotiations on air, water and land.