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Air Pollution in Serbia - Mihael Gubas

The air in some cities in Serbia, such as Kragujevac and Valjevo, and especially Belgrade, has been rated among the worst in the world in recent years. News on this topic, as a rule, is related to data on the financial damage caused by pollution, which is mostly converted into health consequences and increased, the so-called. "Premature death." The fact that the perspective by which activists call on the ruling party to change something is precisely financial, and not health, social or environmental, testifies to the fact that these topics have not yet taken their place on the lists of priorities that actually belong to them. It also means that political awareness on pollution and ecology is still underdeveloped, and omissions in the methodology - such as the fact that individual stations for measuring harmful particles in the atmosphere work only occasionally, instead of continuously - tolerate more than any individual or environmental and health organizations wanted. Such a firm adherence to the logic of full financialization and commodification of everything around us means that ideas like the green transition and a society that does not produce greenhouse gases are still too abstract in Balkan countries.

We tend to characterize such shortcomings as the result of our industries' dependence on foreign capital, weak and failed local industries, and often the consequences of transitional "brain drain" or, to a lesser extent, lack of political will and intent. And all this is true, and certainly most of the problems, but while dealing with causes and analyzes, we rarely think of potential solutions along the way because the causes of problems are so complex that to solve them seems to require a consensus of the whole society whose conflicts they just disable any consensus.

In Serbia, these problems are particularly transparent, as it is a country large enough to have certain industrial advantages over its neighbors. For example, higher population density (in the regional context: Serbia has 111 inhabitants per square kilometer, Croatia 75, and BiH allegedly 68) requires better, i.e., systemic or public heating solutions for households, which is solved by thermal power plants. Public transport still consumes fossil fuels, and it goes without saying that commuting (and on longer distances) will require private transport - old cars that are extremely polluting and that the industry is more developed than in the surrounding countries - but they are not investments have been made in clean air filters, so this type of pollution is also higher. Also, rural areas of the country have a slightly denser average population than the surrounding countries, and heating in such areas is usually on wood. And while urban polluters are recognized as undoubtedly the causes of pollution, rural - wood heating, the so-called "Biomass" - are actually included in renewable energy sources. It's an old elegant trick to make countries statistically appear cleaner than they actually are.

The level of pollution in Serbia is extremely dangerous to health, especially during the global pandemic that attacks the lungs. Solutions are planned by industrial filters and other methods from the end of the twentieth century, and no serious strategies exist. Mediocre politicians offer outdated solutions as new, and even the line minister (for ecology) is pessimistic. The president, in whose image all the political power of Serbia is embodied, is waging war with the media, again in tears, presenting himself as a victim of non-existent foreign interests. That is, even if there are foreign interests there, and even if they go against the president himself, they certainly go in favor of the population.

The weak purchasing power of citizens reduces the chances for successful and environmentally efficient replacement of the vehicle fleet even in richer countries, and in Serbia, this is not even talked about at the level of public subsidies. But to say the least, in the absence of the auto industry, the profits of the transport transition will not be retained in the country either. Solar panels on the roofs of houses, technology are still expensive for individual households and thus unavailable, and there are no systematic discussions about replacing thermal power plants with anything other than hydroelectric power plants. And hydropower plants have already reached the list of factors that further destroy the environment.

The situation described in Serbia is really no better in neighboring countries either. And Although the problems are common, the disintegration of the common state has destroyed the common market, thus weakening each of the Balkan countries. Since ecology is a system of connected vessels, it seems obvious that solutions must be the same. Each of these countries separately has no chance to fully implement the green transition that will make our region free of vassal relations with the capital of Western European countries, but together they have all the comparative advantages for which capital enters the Balkans. Only, while politicians of all our countries are dealing with their positions and seats, while crying to the media about the weight of the head that bears the crown, the "price" of pollution comes per population, and the remediation time is practically over. The common market for new - green - technologies is the only currently available chance for these countries to improve the health and socio-economic picture of the population of the ex-Yugoslav countries. And, since it does not go otherwise, perhaps the cultural break and taboo of similarity and withered "brotherhood and unity" should be "financialized" and presented as a necessary economic measure of green transition and a clean environment.


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