Map Turns Spotlight onto North Macedonia’s Urban Polluters

5

Some of the serious air pollution that worries North Macedonia’s citizens comes from their own public institutions burning dirty fuel, a new map published by environmental activists shows.

Some 700 public institutions, including schools, kindergartens, hospitals, courts and army barracks in North Macedonia are using highly polluting mazut (low-quality heavy fuel oil), crude oil and coal for heating, according to a newly-published map created by environmental activists.

The map published by Sasa za Centar (A Chance for Centar), an environmental initiative that has several local councillors in Skopje’s of Centar municipality, pinpoints institutions that have already signed contracts for mazut, crude oil and coal for heating for the coming winter season.

Some 100 of these institutions are located in the capital, Skopje, and the map shows they have done nothing to change their fuel habits, despite Skopje having a central heating system which they could utilise.

Major towns like Tetovo, Kumanovo, Ohrid, Shtip, Bitola, Prilep and Gostivar are also much affected.

“If this winter season is cold, they could burn more than 16.5 million litres of crude oil and over 4,8 tons of mazut. Off course, we will breathe all that in,” Sasa za Centar told media.

The initiative decided to publish the map now, at a time when the state and municipal budgets for next year are in the works, because it said this represents “a chance for all of us to push for more money to fight air pollution”.

Severe air pollution is nothing new for North Macedonia. Skopje and several other towns were enveloped in thick fog and smog last winter.

But despite the fact the problem is not new, the country still lacks a thorough and detailed analysis of the causes of air pollution in urban areas that could inform further action.

The government website that should show daily values of air pollution, meanwhile, remains barely usable as it often is either down or displays only scarce data from the few measuring stations that are operational.

The last time the country came up with an ambitious strategy for green energy transformation was in 2021. The then prime minister, Zoran Zaev, unveiled a largely public-private plan aiming at phasing out coal within a decade, but his ideas were met with scepticism.

Statistical data shows that 50 per cent of domestic electricity capacity comes from plants that mostly burn coal, compared to 33 per cent from hydropower and just four per cent from other sources including wind and solar.

Source : Balkaninsight