Reiterating the importance of addressing air pollution comes well-timed these days, as Western Balkans cities occupy the tops of the lists of the most polluted cities in the world, Sarajevo in particular.
But, we from the region do not need to follow the online air pollution statistics – we, unfortunately, live it. Alarming warnings we are hearing these days, forbidding even to go out or even open the windows to air our homes are not putting our minds at ease. We do have beautiful mountains, but going there to spend our free time, skiing, boarding, or just walking, should come as leisure, not a survival kit.
And that is exactly what people actually do – they take their children out to the mountains over the weekend to try and mitigate negative effects of days spent in the urban fog or closed in their homes. And still, we keep neglecting that the very air we breathe is hazardously polluted. Putting breathing masks during working days and going up to the mountains over the weekend cannot be a solution, especially not a long-term one. As environment and climate change actions are constantly very low on the investments and budgetary allocations of our governments, the true cost of air pollution is health related.
Statistics are merciless. Besides the data we keep on sharing about region’s cities being air-pollution leaders, data reads that 26% of all known non-communicable diseases in the region are caused by air pollution. The total number of premature deaths directly attributable to air pollution in the cities is nearly 5.000 a year. Many aging power plants provide cheap energy that comes at a high price for human health – around 21.000 premature deaths annually can be attributed to household air pollution. Transport sector, another huge emitter of CO2, is responsible for 7% of all emissions in the region. Also, 13% of all the premature deaths caused by air pollution are traced back to transport.
There are many alarming data and just as many signals in our daily lives that have been present for years now, requiring action. If we start doing something today, sadly but truly, it is overdue.