Panel discussion - ‘Our roles and responsibilities in mitigating air pollution in Kosovo’
November 27, 2019 – As part of the campaign ‘The Future is Green, Act Now!’ supported by Heinrich Böll Foundation, the Balkan Green Foundation (BGF) organized a panel discussion on the roles and responsibilities in mitigating air pollution in Kosovo. This discussion aimed to address the latest developments in terms of air pollution and opportunities to provide a healthier environment and cleaner air for all. Out of 13 proposed measures to address air pollution in Kosovo (published in January 2019), BGF presented a progress report on the actions taken by institutions until now. This report consists of an individual analysis of each measure and contains information on the reforms, initiatives, and various stakeholders. The report also contains further recommendations for the government and citizens in order to improve the air quality in the country.
The panel consisted of Sabit Restelica from the Kosovo Environmental Protection Agency (KEPA), Leutrim Sahiti from the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning (MESP) and Elion Gerguri from the Balkan Green Foundation (BGF). The discussion focused on actions taken and mandates of responsible institutions to act and develop policies to mitigate the impacts of pollution.
Leutrim Sahiti, Advisor to the Minister of Environment and Spatial Planning, referring to the problem of air pollution as an inherited problem, stated that MESP has made a great progress in coordinating various actions that may affect the reduction of the level of air pollution. One of which is the decision to prohibit the use of coal in schools, as well as in public (central and local) institutions. In addition, with the EU support, MESP has installed a central program for collecting air quality data from monitoring stations and presenting them in real time (www.kosovo-airquality.com ). Responding to a question by an audience member regarding the fines imposed by MESP, Sahiti said that the ministry has imposed around 1,500 fines in total for various pollutants (not just air related ones).
Sabit Restelica, Air and Environmental Monitoring Officer at KEPA, emphasized that reporting real-time air pollution data is a good step as it provides citizens with an opportunity to access information at any time. KEPA, as an agency within MESP, witnesses the great interest and support by numerous donors such a: Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Millennium Foundation Kosovo (MFK), etc. As a result of their cooperation with JICA, KEPA is awaiting the results of JICA’s study on key air pollutants in Pristina which will reveal the major polluters, as well as the relevant measures to be taken. The results of such a study will be announced within the next six months. Whereas, their support with MFK, consist on the configuration of analyzers at stations that host equipment which extracts data on air pollution.
Elion Gerguri, Researcher at the Balkan Green Foundation, during his presentation of the report stated the fact that today Kosovo citizens have access to continuous and real-time data on air pollution - data coming directly from the state-wide air quality monitoring network. Gerguri said that currently data are published for seven municipalities in Kosovo (Pristina, Mitrovica, Gjilan, Hani i Elezit, Drenas, Prizren and Peja). A matter of concern is the fact that monitoring stations located in areas characterized by high air pollution, such as Obiliq, do not have real-time data yet. According to Gerguri, it is very important that the station in Obiliq has continuous and real-time reporting throughout the year because it is close to both Kosovo’s coal power plants.
Participants from the audience suggested additional actions which they consider being overlooked by institutions. Some of them were: lack of capacities and awareness for the issue, lack of green public spaces, the need to monitor the state of the air pollution from the construction sector, lack of coniferous trees – due to their greater pollutant absorption capacity, the need for planning and developing as many low emission zones as possible which restrict and obstruct vehicles in order to improve air quality, etc.
The discussion concluded with agreements that the Government of Kosovo should seriously address the problem of air pollution. Further, considering that the legislation is already in place, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport (MIT) should implement the administrative instruction on controlling and measuring vehicle emissions. Also, the Independent Commission for Mines and Minerals (ICMM) should ensure that the exploitation and sale of coal to individuals is prohibited, as required by the law on mining. It is the final time for the public’s interest to be put on top of personal and political agendas.