BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Hundreds of people rallied in Serbia on Sunday to draw attention to the country’s high air pollution and demand that authorities take action to improve air quality.
The protest in central Belgrade was the latest in a series of gatherings organized by increasingly visible environmental movement in the Balkan country.
Serbia — like much of the Western Balkans — is facing multiple environmental problems following decades of neglect. The problems include poor waste management, low air quality and polluted rivers. Weeks of road blockades drawing thousands of people recently forced authorities to scrap a project for lithium mining by the Rio Tinto company in western Serbia.
Organizers of Sunday’s event demanded that the government inform the public about the air quality index on national TV. They said bad air kills thousands of people each year in Serbia.
“Serbia has very dramatic problem with air pollution,” said one of the organizers, Bojan Simsic. “We have the highest mortality in Europe and one of the highest … in the world (from poor air quality).”
The protesters included families with small children. Some carried banners reading “Stop air pollution!” or “You are suffocating us!” They blocked traffic in a central street before marching toward the government headquarters.
Experts say the poor air quality in Belgrade is the result of using low-quality coal at nearby power plants, having thousands of polluting old cars in the capital and older systems for home heating. Serbia must fix its environmental troubles before it is able to join the European Union.
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