ON POLLUTION, POLITICS AND QUIET KILLING OF CITIZENS
By Trifun Kostovski
It seems that after seeing the outcome of resolving one of the bitterest issues for this government, and that is the name issue, it is certainly alarming to be urgent for a thorough turn to internal politics. It is clear to everyone that the Republic of Macedonia is in serious institutional, economic, health, educational, juridical blockade and backwardness.
A “crown” of this decaying social picture is the ecological catastrophe that puts us on the shameful lists of the most polluted city/country in the world.
It is more than clear that the environmental pollution of the air is the result of “polluted” and irresponsible policies being pursued. Every pre-election speech that puts citizens and their importance in the first place can be thrown into the dump when we face the fact that citizens are quietly killed through the polluted air through PM 10 particles that create deposits in the blood vessels and respiratory tract, and which often, in monthly continuations, are 10 to 15 times higher than the allowed units of measure.
Such a shameful and harsh situation in the country undoubtedly results from many decades of misguided, and I would even say urban-mafia policies in construction, in industrial catastrophic planning, which since the time of SFRY have located the factories in the cities themselves, and in doing so, still does not use any protective mechanisms for the spread of toxic substances in the air.
Skopje’s geographical position has always been low-yield when it comes to air quality. Mountains which surround this city do not permit circulation of air currents. But there was a solution for that, and that solution laid in a long-lost opportunity – smart and humane urban and architectural planning, which particularly fell in water during the transition period when the urban mafia was placed before the citizens’ needs.
What the government should do is a structural solution to this problem. There must be a rational long-term political approach and they must not fall into the trap of hysterical one-off actions that do not solve the problem. That is why, if we want to solve the future policies that will provide the citizens of Skopje, as well as the Republic of Macedonia, with a humane environment, we must look at all the possible causes that have led to this tragedy. And then, we could deepen the structural changes.
The strategy for resolving this problem must be based on a thorough analysis and efficient proposal measures for decontamination by the authorities in the country. Perhaps the most important thing is the competent legal entity that would carry out and implement such anti-pollution strategies to have high expertise in the field. In short, we need analyses that will diagnose not only air pollution, but also soil and water pollution.
For this problem, one should not save money, because human health cannot be bought at any price.
I consider that the highest priority of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia should be the engagement of highly expert teams from the country and abroad, who intensively, in a quarter of a month at most, will draft an emergency strategy for solving this killing problem. Nothing should be more important at this moment than diagnosing, and then deciding in quick steps to the problem that is deadly for life of the citizens of the Republic of Macedonia.
I would like to reiterate some of the long-standing factors that contribute to this catastrophe today.
In the former SFRY or even farther FNRY, in the early 1950s industrialization in the Republic of Macedonia began, within which four cities were particularly affected, such as Skopje, Bitola, Tetovo and Veles. These cities are currently considered the most polluted in the world.
In Skopje black metallurgy was installed through the Mines and Ironworks Skopje, which dealt with the dirtiest processing of ores in semi-finished products and products, within the Skopje Ironworks itself. Discharged gases and toxic substances from the then smelters can be hardly measured today.
Subsequently, colored metallurgy was placed in Skopje, through Alumina and Kuprom, as well as the strong chemical industry through Ohis, and long ago Cvetan Dimov, as well as the leather, cement, glass industry, etc.
Skopje is the only capital of all the capitals of the former Yugoslav republics where the dirtiest and the most polluting industry in the world was located. Tetovo still pays the price of former Jugohrom, as Bitola actually pays the price of REK Bitola, which even today works with technology eliminated worldwide long ago.
In the modern world there is a developed system of purification in all three segments – air, water and soil. I guess you wonder why London today is not a hazy city, on the contrary. I am sure many of us remember that London was identified as a city where fog was an integral part of everyday life. This is just one example of how the world copes with industrialization mistakes, especially in the primary industry.
Unfortunately, in Macedonia there is no strategy for solving the problem of heavy waste. Of course, the responsibility should be borne by the Government.
I am asking most responsibly, how long will we behave irresponsibly regarding the problems that endanger our health? Republic of Macedonia urgently needs to build landfills, especially for heavy waste, which will be treated in a manner and procedures that will not put human health to question. The unwanted waste that poisons our lives is all around us. I mentioned the polluting industry, but I want to emphasize that it is not the only pollutant. We, the very citizens, are polluters to a great extent, irresponsible to our living environment.
The traffic problem, which goes hand in hand with the overcrowding of the city and the absence of adequate public transport, is also one of the key causes of the environmental catastrophe. It is not only about absence of awareness among the citizens, who use cars irrationally, but it is about the lack of conditions for alternative transport. Skopje is the ideal city to secure safe and fast bicycle transport, which will treat cyclists as equal participants in traffic. It is necessary to provide bicycle paths that will not be on the sidewalks, as well as secure signaling. I am convinced that many citizens will use bicycles as the fastest and most environmentally friendly means of transport. It is impossible and extremely risky at the moment. But the development and reorganization of traffic in this direction will affect the change of the overall traffic culture, which in turn will influence the reduction of pollution. Berlin is the most perfect example – it is a city with 5 million inhabitants that has been the cleanest city in the past 15 years precisely as a result of solving cycling infrastructure.
Regarding public transport – it is undoubtedly most urgent to introduce a tram line on the move from Gjorce Petrov to Aerodrom/Novo Lisice. The incumbent mayor announced the start of the completion of the plan for this traffic measure, which was adopted on the basis of an expert team during my mayoral mandate. This measure, which in my time as a mayor was placed as a priority, must be realized as soon as possible. There is no alibi for its delay.
My dear fellow citizens, it is time to stand up for our lives and for our health. And the Government of the Republic of Macedonia should bear the responsibility for this. There is nothing more important to allocate financial resources than solving this environmental and health catastrophe.
In the following order: precise anamnesis, diagnosis and therapy. Because without diagnosis, the drug and the exact therapy cannot be found. And this endangers patients’ lives…In this country, we are all patients quietly killed as a result of decades of irresponsible government policies.
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