Sarajevo, Bosnia – Dozens of people gathered in Sarajevo on Monday to protest dangerously high levels of air pollution in the past few weeks in the Bosnian capital.
Some participants wore masks at a rally on Monday outside Sarajevo’s government hosting building.
Organizers say they want to encourage action and draw the public’s attention to the decades-old problem of the city being sunk in a deep valley in the mountains.
Measurements of air pollution over the past few weeks have shown that levels of harmful airborne particles have exceeded EU safety regulations several times.
Local authorities last week imposed emergency measures for a few days, urging citizens not to use coal and wood to heat and ban diesel cars.
Local government chief Edin Forto told protesters that the situation could not be changed in a few months, but would take longer. He said citizens also have to play their role.
“A lot of people refuse to change their routines,” he said. “They don’t want us to stop traffic or cancel classes (because of pollution), so we have to work to raise awareness.”
Later Monday, a group of foreign ambassadors and international officials held a meeting with Sarajevo authorities focusing on pollution, the Klix news portal reported. British Ambassador Matthew Field posted pictures on Twitter showing the officers wearing masks.
“Good steps are being taken, but stronger action is needed at all levels,” Field tweeted.
Experts say the level of air pollution in the Balkans is high due to the use of coal-fired power plants and old cars and many other factors. Last week, dense fog added to the problem.
Last year, a report by the United Nations Environment Program said that people living in the Western Balkans lost up to 1.3 years to their lives due to air pollution.
Experts warn that this and other environmental catastrophes could hamper Bosnia and other Balkan countries’ efforts to join the European Union.
Elder American, Associated Press