The French Embassy and Balkan Green Foundation organize a conference on Air Pollution and Urban Planning
29 November, 2018, Pristina – The French Embassy in Kosovo and Balkan Green Foundation (BGF) organized a conference on Air Pollution and Urban Planning where they discussed the state of the air in the country and its linkage to urban planning. During the conference, French experts presented EU requirements, policies, air quality monitoring methods as well as best practices related to Urban Planning.
Balkan Green Foundation's Executive Director, Visar Azemi, in his introductory speech, said that institutions should pay more attention to address the problem of air pollution because in the course of a year we have thousands of deaths as a result of air pollution. "Power plants that burn coal to produce electricity, heavy traffic congestion, and households burning materials for heating during the winter, are the biggest contributors to air pollution in the country. Proper addressing of this problem should be an essential element, whereby taking appropriate and concrete measures on the improvement of the state of the environment should be the focus of the policies of the decision-making institutions," said Azemi.
Further, the panel featuring municipal representatives, representatives of the Ministry of Environment, United Nations Development Coordinator in Kosovo (UNDP), the French Ambassador to Kosovo Didier Chabert said: "Death as a result of air pollution is alarming, indicating that this issue continues to be a problematic and very troubling factor which is not receiving the full political attention and will from the relevant institutions in the country. Further, the key problem is the dominance of private vehicles that do not give space for the proper functioning of public transport - which proves that there has been no proper urban planning in the city of Pristina. Kosovo citizens need clean air and to breathe freely."
The conference was divided into two discussion panels where the first panel focused on air quality in Pristina, discussing the main sources of air pollution (central heating, road traffic, and industrial emissions) as well as their impact on the environment and public health. Panel participants stressed the importance of continuous monitoring of air quality, as pure air is the basic right of every citizen. Also, during the discussion, it was emphasized the need for cooperation and inclusion of academia to ensure accurate data compilation and research on the current state of air pollution in Kosovo. This panel included representatives from the Kosovo Environmental Protection Agency, the University of Pristina, and the National Institute of Public Health in Kosovo.
The second panel emphasized the importance of drafting solutions to improve air quality in Pristina and to initiate the ecological transition in urban planning in areas such as transport, energy efficiency, green areas, etc. During the panel discussion, it was said that the well-being of citizens using the infrastructure of towns and villages is very important, so there needs to be a fragmentation of responsibilities in the implementation of long-term strategies between central and local institutions. It was also stated that the country constantly faces long-term problems related to rapid urbanization, waste management and water scarcity, and inadequate environmental policies in the aspect of transport and energy. The participants were very interested to understand when the Mobility Plan for the Municipality of Prishtina will be published, so the municipal officials announced that the mobility plan will be published in December 2018. Representatives from the Association of Kosovo Architects, Pristina Municipality, UN-HABITAT Prishtina, and the University of Prishtina were also part of this discussion panel.
Part of the conference were also two experts from France, Sophie Moukhtar, Air Quality Observatory in Paris Region (AirParif), and Michelle Larue-Charlus, Bordeaux Metropole, who discussed the importance of using best practices from advanced cities to apply in Kosovo with regards to air quality monitoring and effective urban planning. According to them, it is important to raise awareness among citizens about air pollution prevention, undertaking municipal actions to solve urban planning problems, and mutual cooperation with citizens in order to improve air quality in the country.
Balkan Green Foundation has published 13 immediate measures that the Government must undertake to address the problem of air pollution in the country!
Air pollution is the consequence of a large number of inadequate policies and this has to change urgently. The Government of Kosovo must understand that it cannot push forward laws, strategies, contracts worth billions and decisions worth millions that make coal the synonym of our future, and on the other side behave as if environmental perception will be prioritized. It was also emphasized that it is important to have cross-sectoral cooperation and partnership with the private sector, academia, key stakeholders, and citizens, in combating air pollution and properly planning urban projects in the country.