How’s Your Air Today?

(Albanian translation here)

852 people will prematurely die this year in Kosovo from air pollution. Another 318 will develop chronic bronchitis, a World Bank study from 2013 showed. Last winter, Kosovo’s air pollution exceeded 300 API for several days meaning breathing outside was actually hazardous for your health.  The new Kosova e Re coal plant was announced in December, however the government has not released the contract publicly. Few details are known about how this will help or hurt Kosovo’s air quality.

We discussed environmental issues in Kosovo with Burim Ejupi, head of INDEP, a think tank in Prishtina that works with the parliament and other NGOs to provide research and information on important policy issues. INDEP is a part of the KOSID coalition of NGOs that work on Kosovo’s environmental issues. We wanted to know how the coal plant affects Kosovar citizens and what citizens can do to help protect the environment in Kosovo. INDEP has been against building a new plant since 2011. Burim Ejupi is a civil society pioneer in Kosovo, beginning his activist career 20 years ago working on youth activism in Kosovo.

Ejupi, says Kosovars lose 33% of their electricity every winter. Kosovo uses 600 MW in the summer and 1200 mw of electricity in winter. The losses come from using “electricity as a form of heating, poor insulation in houses and flats and the non-payment of bills by Serbs in the North and theft.” 5% is lost to the North whilst 10-11% is lost to theft. “One thing that individuals can do is begin learning how to insulate homes properly, including “sealing windows and cutting down on the use of electric for heat.”

Electricity in post-war Kosovo has a long and tangled history. It’s still not reliably delivered and for many it’s very expensive. The average salary in Kosovo is 350 Euros a month. 10% of Kosovars live under the poverty line. 20% live just at the poverty line, says Ejupi.

Kosovo sits on enormous reserves of brown, soft lignite coal. This coal is one of the dirtiest and most polluting sources of energy on the planet. As a result according to the Climate Action Network, a European NGO, countries around the world are closing or cancelling coal plants. 26 out of 28 EU countries have pledged to phase out coal plants completely by 2030. If Kosovo does build the new coal plant and joins the EU then by 2030, it will then have to decommission it. Coal is now viewed as a poor form of energy. Cheap in the short- term, it pollutes air and increases climate change by warming the earth creating a phenomenon often known as Global Warming. The UK’s Climate Minister, Claire Perry stated, “Coal’s time has come to an end”.

Global warming causes the Earth’s temperature to rise and melts the polar ice caps, raising the ocean to levels that will engulf coastal cities. It also causes increasingly unstable weather patterns like hurricanes in the US and massive storms in Northern Europe. As well as weather fluctuations in Kosovo like this summer’s heat wave and last winter’s deep freezing temperatures.

When the plant is built, because of the way it is being financed, Ejupi estimates electricity bills are likely to rise by 50%. “Whenever something is built, Kosovars pay for it.”

Here are some tips for lowering your heating bills, fighting air pollution and protecting the environment:

 

  • If you can, invest in insulating your home. Block cold air from leaking in from the windows.
  • Lower the heat and stop using electric heating systems, if possible.
  • Invest in energy efficient appliances. myKOSID.org has a handy calculator for choosing appliances.
  • Use less plastic, carry your own reusable bags to shop. Recycle when possible.
  • Walk, cycle or use public transport more often.

 

For more information see KOSID.org, myKoSID.org and INDEP.info Also see the Coal Map of Europe and you can check air quality in Prishtina for free at the US Embassy Prishtina’s website.

 

 

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