Serbian coal plants have spewed vast amounts of toxic gasses across the entire region for decades, causing hundreds of premature deaths in the Western Balkans and the EU.
The power plants, run by state-owned energy company Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS), have been releasing poisonous emissions six times above the limits set by domestic and international law, as reported by EurActiv Srbija, citing META, the news channel of the European Environmental Agency (EEB).
Serbian thermal power plants are among Europe’s biggest emitters of sulfur dioxide (SO2), and public health and economic liability for the whole continent, META writes.
SO2 is a harmful gas released when burning coal, which contributes to the formation of acid rain and particulate matter (PM), and pose a significant threat to human health and the environment.
When inhaled, SO2 can cause severe irritation of the nose and throat, coughing and difficulty in breathing. Exposure to high concentrations can also cause a life-threatening accumulation of fluid in the lungs, as well as a long-lasting condition like asthma.
SO2 emissions from EPS plants travel long distances and affect people and nature in Serbia and beyond.
The relevant data show that over half of the premature deaths caused by emissions from Western Balkan coal power plants in 2016 occurred in the EU. Although neighbouring countries are the most exposed – 380 of these premature deaths happened in Romania and 370 in Italy – the impacts were felt as far as Germany, France and Spain.
Chronic coal pollution in the Western Balkans also harmed European productivity with an estimated total of 3,047 hospital admissions and over 1.16 million lost working days in the EU and Western Balkan countries in 2016. In the EU alone, the total was 1,418 hospital admissions and over 600,000 lost working days.
META reminds that, as a party to the Energy Community, an international organization which brings together the European Union and its neighbours to create an integrated pan-European energy market, Serbia is legally required to reduce polluting emissions from its thermal power plants below the legal levels set in the National Emission Reduction Plan (NERP).
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