“There are between 2,500 and 3,000 illegal landfills in Serbia that are poisoning arable land and agricultural produce,” said Marko Vujić from the Centre for Environmental Policy at the Faculty of Political Science.
Vujic told the Beta news agency that Serbia ranks first in Europe in terms of air pollution, but that the situation with soil and water pollution is not better either.
“The farmland near each landfill is severely contaminated. The land absorbs toxic substances from the landfills, especially when it rains, so we get agricultural produce from areas that are not healthy,” Vujic said.
He added that the most polluted water is found in central and northern Banat, where several hundred thousand inhabitants live and who have not been able to drink tap water for 46 years now. “It is unbelievable and irresponsible that Serbia has not been able to solve the problem of lack of drinking water in Banat for decades,” Vujic warns.
In many cities, 95% of wastewater flows into rivers. “The Danube River flows through 10 European countries and becomes more polluted near Belgrade because all the capital’s wastewater flows into the Danube and the Sava,” Vujic underlines.
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According to him, Serbia is also polluted by the irresponsible behaviour of private companies, mainly foreign investors.
“In our country, environmental standards are lower than in countries where most investors come from. Foreign investors do not even comply with minimum environmental standards and, on the other hand, there is no environmental inspection that can monitor their work.”
He said that Serbia has only one environmental inspector per 100,000 inhabitants.
“Serbia is a very fertile ground for investors who do not invest in environmental protection, which lately come mainly from China. The huge pollution in Smederevo and Bor is the best indicator of how much the Chinese care about the environment and the health of our citizens,” he says and adds:
“Certainly, Chinese investors have significantly worsened the state of the environment in Serbia. President Aleksandar Vučić’s statement that he was not interested in the fact that Chinese investors had not been able to do their business in China because of high environmental standards is unacceptable. This behaviour of the people in power rightly causes the feeling of great unease among the citizens”.
“If we add to this other projects, such as the lithium mine in Jadar near Loznica, we can conclude that the state authorities also participate a lot in jeopardizing human health,” Vujic warns.
“No intelligent country would allow a company like Rio Tinto to open mines. The lithium mine they are planning to open will cause contamination of fertile land for tens of square kilometres around and the whole area will be desolated,” Vujic underlines.
He added that the lithium mine would completely wipe out agricultural production in Jadar and endanger the lives of people.
Vujic concludes that, in order for Serbia to reach the EU’s average level of environmental protection, 15 billion euro and a lot of goodwill are needed.
This post is also available in: Italiano