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Chimney in the Lungs

The current environmental crisis completely contradicts the fact that Bosnia & Herzegovina has signed numerous environmental protection agreements, directives and declarations over the past few decades

According to research conducted by the World Health Organization and other institutions of global importance, Bosnia & Herzegovina is Europe’s most polluted country, while its capital city of Sarajevo is among the world’s five worst cities when it comes to air quality, with a concentration of toxic particles that’s thirty times above the tolerance threshold level.

According to the last Report on the state of the environment in Bosnia & Herzegovina, which was published by the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations more than ten years ago – the updating pace of which testifies to the lack of commitment among the competent authorities in this field – the main sources of pollution are represented by industry and traffic. With the inclusion of the remark that industry had also been the biggest polluter before the war, the Report includes a reminder that the country had 122 industrial plants for wastewater treatment back then, none of which are operational today – a similar situation also exists when it comes to filters on factory chimneys, which are still something of a rarity in BiH. Providing an illustrative example of this kind of stagnation, albeit in a slightly different context, is Sarajevo International Airport, where a fog dissipation system was installed in the buildup to the Winter Olympics more than four decades ago, and served to guarantee unhindered air traffic during all seasons – the airport’s managers today boast of having a “modernised anti-fog system”, the effectiveness of which is manifested during the foggy winter months by approximately a hundred flights having to be cancelled and diverted due to poor visibility as a result of smog.

The aforementioned ecological debacle completely contradicts the fact that BiH has, over the past few decades, signed numerous environmental protection agreements, directives and declarations, including the European Green Deal. Still, as fast as the state is when it comes to signing such acts, it is even faster and more consistent when it comes to infringing on the obligations that they entail, and is therefore, among other things, the European Energy Community member against which the EEC has launched the most proceedings. Also testifying to the vastness of the gap between environmental-energy theory and practice in Bosnia & Herzegovina is the continual insistence on launching new blocks at existing coal-fired thermal power plants, and equal consistence in blocking projects for the construction of hydropower plants and the expansion of gas connections, all while advocating in declarative terms for shifting to clean sources.

BiH probably holds the world record for the number of environmental associations per capita, though this mostly pertains to organisations that lack any tangible impact

And yet, when it comes to the general public’s awareness of the importance of environmental protection, the truth is that BiH probably holds the world record for the number of environmental associations per capita, though this mostly pertains to organisations that lack any tangible impact and have the sole purpose of siphoning budget funds to the benefit of their heads. As such, it should come as no surprise that the only successful environmental protest in the post-war era – resulting in the banning of the construction of small hydropower plants in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina – was actually a spontaneous campaign of the women of Kruščica, a village in Central Bosnia, who spent more than 15 months fighting, by blockading construction sites day and night, and ultimately fought off attempts to destroy their local river with the installing of mini hydro plants.

On the flip side, it can’t be said that citizens are faultless when it comes to the polluting of their own environment, given that – with the exception of pollution that’s a result of the comprehensive lack of a basic culture of cleanliness, and which could be minimised easily with the introduction of a more stringent penal policy – their negative contribution is primarily a result of poverty. Specifically, for the majority of the BiH population, which ranks among the poorest in Europe, solar panels are too expensive as sources of energy, and also applies increasingly to the cost of natural gas and even electricity, despite electricity prices being among the cheapest in the region, though simultaneously pretty expensive when compared to the country’s pitiful standard of living.

The electricity problem is also the most infuriating, because even though logic dictates that a country that exports electricity should provide that same energy to its citizens at an affordable price, local energy companies continuously seek new price hikes in order to compensate for the enormous salaries of their politically engaged employees and outflows to the dark funds of political parties, in which they have the unequivocal support of foreign lobbyists, who strive, under the guise of advocating for a free market, to promote the entry of Western resellers of electricity into the country, the basic precondition of which is for the tariff in BiH to be made equal with that of Europe.

Such an energy policy results in households being compelled to use fossil fuels, primarily coal and wood, while during the winter months they often resort to using even more harmful pollutants, such as rubber and plastic. The situation is equally bad when it comes to motor vehicles, given that the average citizens can hardly afford a new car, let alone an electric or hybrid vehicle, and instead they drive European junk vehicles that are over 20 years old and have a maximum emissions standard of Euro 3.

Summarising everything, and scratching a little deeper beneath the layers that prevent the “greening” of Bosnia & Herzegovina, it is evident that the absolute imperative to suppress the specific types of pollution flooding BiH society has been polluted by corruption. Room for optimism is sadly lacking here too, given that Transparency International has declared BiH the second most corrupt country in Europe, with only Russia deemed worse – and all negative titles in all areas have been reserved for that country until it ends its aggression against Ukraine.

USED VEHICLES

Citizens can hardly afford a new car, let alone an electric or hybrid vehicle, and instead they drive European junk vehicles that are over 20 years old and have a maximum emissions standard of Euro 3.

WASTE

Due to the high price of electricity, households often resort to heating with wood and coal, and sometimes even pollutants like rubber and plastic.

RECORD

Bosnia & Herzegovina is Europe’s most polluted country, while its capital city of Sarajevo has a concentration of toxic particles that’s thirty times above the tolerance threshold level.

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