The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) warned in its latest report that pollution levels in the Western Balkans are at alarming levels.
The report, published on Monday, said that the pollution levels across the region were so high that they were reducing life expectancy. “Air pollution in Western Balkan cities is the cause of between 15 and 19 percent of all deaths and reduces life expectancy by 1.1 and 1.3 years,” the report said.
The pollution is caused in great part by the fact that the region is greatly dependent on coal for electricity, UNEP said in the report drawn up with the World Health Organization (WHO) after testing air quality in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia over a period of 274 days. It said that air pollution levels exceeded set levels for up to 180 days a year, more than the 35 days allowed under EU regulations.
The population is exposed to some of the highest concentrations of pollution in Europe, five times the levels set by national laws and the European Union, the report said. It warned that 15 coal-powered plants in five Western Balkan countries were emitting significant levels of pollutants, adding that the main problem lies in the fact that the region lacks renewable power sources. Another problem are ineffcient individual central heating systems in 88 percent of buildings.