By early March, measuring stations in Čačak registered more than 35 days of excessive levels of PM10 particles in the air since the beginning of the year, breaching the legal limit. The threshold was passed already one month ago in Valjevo.
Citizens are witnessing a catastrophic air pollution episode that placed Čačak at the top of the list of the most polluted cities in Serbia, the Zeleni talas (Green Wave) initiative said. March 11 was the 41st day this year with concentrations of particulate matter type PM10 above the allowed level, it added, citing data from the local public health institute. The 35th day, the legal limit for every calendar year, was registered already on March 3.
Funds must be redirected into subsidies and the promotion of a transition to cleaner energy sources as well into improving the energy efficiency of buildings, Zeleni talas said
“Even though the responsible institutions set up new measuring stations, which confirmed the realistic and worrying situation with air pollution, this is just the first step. We believe it is about time to start considering the improvement of air quality in Čačak an environmental and healthcare priority so that the responsible institutions redirect substantial funds into subsidies and the promotion of a transition to cleaner energy sources as well into improving the energy efficiency of buildings with better insulation. Furthermore, the city must have zero tolerance for industrial polluters that are turning a deaf ear to regulations and poison our environment,” the statement adds.
The organization said there are indications of late that the local authority in the city in western Serbia is aware of the issue and that it seems willing to make a change, but it added air pollution is not the only issue. Zeleni talas has launched a campaign and petition to protect the Krasojevića zabran forest from destruction.
It also highlighted the pollution in the West Morava river and tree cutting in city parks as burning issues.
Zeleni talas called on citizens to express dissatisfaction by writing to the city administration. Mayor Milun Todorović denied several times that the air was polluted.
PM10 levels in Valjevo topped 200 micrograms per cubic meter last week
The 35-day mark was surpassed in Valjevo already in the second week of February, and the dominant pollutant was also the PM10 type of fine dust. It consists of suspended particles with a diameter of up to 10 micrometers.
A group called Lokalni odgovor is tracking air pollution in the city, which is located in the same region. Its activists are publishing official data every week in their Aero Alarm bulletin. March 14 was the 64the day with air in the polluted category.
The highest hourly level of particulate matter PM10 last week was registered on March 12. It was 202.79 micrograms per cubic meter, which means ambient air was very polluted. The presence of PM2.5 climbed to 195.02 micrograms in one hourly reading on the same day.
Official data is published with delays
Lokalni odgovor calculated from monthly reports that the air in Valjevo was polluted or very polluted for 120 days, a little less than in 2019, activist Vladimir Pantić said. The city’s air quality plan was adopted in 2016 and the local authority and public health institute still publish the data with a delay, he noted in a statement for Balkan Green Energy News. The situation in Čačak is similar while entire Serbia and the surrounding countries regularly face extreme air pollution during the heating season.
Pantić: The authorities still have a superficial approach to the matter instead of really trying to improve the air quality in Valjevo
Minister of Environmental Protection Irena Vujović recently visited a new biomass-fueled heating plant in nearby Mionica. “We are glad to hear it but we have to stress that she didn’t come here and that there are no government-run air pollution measuring stations. We still don’t know if the planned switch of the heating plant in Valjevo to gas will be approved nor when a gas pipeline would reach us at all. Large investments are necessary to overcome this crisis but the authorities still have a superficial approach to the matter instead of really trying to tackle the problem. Lokalni odgovor isn’t giving up. We will continue to cooperate with the media and to try and motivate people to act,” Pantić said.
He asserted that one of the most critical points is the lignite combustion unit in the Krušik plant. The initiative supports the big protest against pollution scheduled for April 10 in Belgrade, the activist said.