Fifteen residents of Veliki Crljeni have filed lawsuits against Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS) over water, air and land pollution caused by coal-fired power plant Kolubara A, a coal dump, an ash dump, a tailings pond as well as a heating plant in Vreoci. This is the first time citizens in Serbia are seeking protection of personality rights due to pollution, based on the European Convention on Human Rights. A verdict in their favor could be a turning point in the fight against pollution in Serbia.
A preparatory hearing in the case launched by the residents of Veliki Crljeni, who live in the immediate vicinity of the Kolubara A power plant, was held today in the High Court in Belgrade. Residents of villages in the municipality of Lazarevac are demanding from EPS to close the power plant or install the best available techniques to protect them from pollution, as well as compensation for material and non-material damage.
The process could be a turning point in protecting citizens from pollution in Serbia
Some of the locals are also members of the association Za zdravije sutra (For a healthier tomorrow), founded in 2018 with the aim of protecting inhabitants of Veliki Crljeni from pollution. The village with about 200 families has for years suffered from emissions of particulate matter PM10, PM2.5, sulfur dioxide (SO2), soot from the coal-fired power plant and heating plant, coal dust and ash flying from coal and ash dumps, landslides, wastewater, but authorities are silent. The burning of coal is one of the main sources of air pollution, a big issue in Serbia.
The analysis of hair, nails, blood of the locals will be done in order to prove the harmful effect of coal
Lawyer Sreten Đorđević, the prosecutors’ attorney, told Balkan Green Energy News that for the first time lawsuits due to pollution are based on the protection of personality rights, which is guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Serbia is a signatory.
The European Court of Human Rights has issued many judgments in favor of EU citizens based on the protection of personality rights
The European Court of Human Rights has passed many verdicts in favor of citizens on the basis of the protection of personality rights, and the practice is included in the lawsuits, Đorđević said.
The trial will be also unique for the various expert examinations to prove that the operation of the thermal power plant, coal and ash dumps and heating plant in Vreoci is harmful to the health of locals and that it pollutes water, soil and air.
Locals are demanding the closure of all polluting facilities or the installation of the best available techniques
An analysis of the hair, nails and blood of the locals will be done in order to prove the harmful impact of the facilities. Measurements of the amount of PM, as well as their composition, and an analysis of soil, biomass, water will also be performed. It will be done in a manner never seen before in Serbia, he said.
The locals are demanding the closure of all the polluters or the installation of best available techniques (BAT). Furthermore, they seek compensation for non-material damage due to mental pain and fear caused by endangered health, as well as compensation for material damage due to reduced crop incomes, decreased real estate values, an increase in maintenance costs.
Locals not informed about the state of the environment
Lawyer Đorđević says the locals do not have any access to information about the state of the environment because EPS does not cooperate. EPS also declared all data on accidents a business secret, withholding information from citizens on chemical and other accidents and health risks to which they were exposed years ago, he added.
TPP Kolubara A should be closed by the end of 2023
Đorđević is very optimistic about the outcome. “We are ready to fight,” he said.
The trial could be a cornerstone in the fight for clean air, water and soil in all polluted places in Serbia, according to the lawyer.
It could become valuable in the fight for the human rights of Serbian citizens in court when they are violated with pollution, he said.
Coal-fired power plant Kolubara A should be closed by the end of 2023 due to the harmonization of power plant activity in Serbia with European directives, unless it is modernized in accordance with the highest European standards by then, which is not planned yet.