Environmental Protection Agency on 7 September 2020 announced Annual Report on the Air Quality in the Republic of Serbia in 2019 which contains an overview of air quality monitoring results at the national and local level. An integral part of this report is the assessment of air quality by zones and agglomerations, according to which in all agglomerations in the Republic of Serbia during 2019 excessive air pollution was recorded, and the air in them was assessed as third category.
Air quality assessment in zones and agglomerations
In 2019 the air in all agglomerations (Belgrade, Novi Sad, Niš, Bor, Užice, Kosjerić, Smederevo and Pančevo) was excessively polluted since the limit values for one or more pollutants were exceeded. In all of the agglomerations, the air was excessively polluted due to the high concentration of PM10 and (or) PM 2.5 particles, with the exception of Bor, which is classified in the cities with highest category of pollution due to excessive concentration of sulfur dioxide (SO2).
The results of air quality monitoring unified by the Environmental Protection Agency are the basis for the adoption of the Regulation on Determining the List of Air Quality Categories by Zones and Agglomerations on the Territory of the Republic of Serbia, adopted by the Government of the Republic of Serbia once a year for the previous calendar year. However, the Government of the RS in June 2020 issued the Regulation for 2018. The Regulation for 2019 has yet to be issued.
The problem of air pollution is a long-lasting problem of the City of Belgrade. Thus, according to the data of the Environmental Protection Agency, the measuring station in New Belgrade documented 169 days in which the daily limit values of PM 10 particles in the air were exceeded during 2019, and at other four measuring stations it was documented a great number of days where daily limit values were exceeded. Belgrade, unlike most agglomerations classified as the third category of air quality, has an Air Quality Plan that shall be applied for the period from 2016 to 2020. However, the presented data demonstrate that this plan was not consistently implemented, and that monitoring over the plan implementation was missing.
It is interesting that the report states that in addition to the data of the Environmental Protection Agency, data from the City Institute for Public Health Belgrade were used in assessing air quality for 2019, and that the results of automatic monitoring from the local network of the City of Belgrade were not provided to the Agency beside despite multiple requests.
Data on air quality in Bor are particularly worrying, since in this city during 2019 the concentration of sulfur dioxide dangerous to human health was recorded 13 times, as well as that the target value of the concentration of heavy metals (arsenic and cadmium) was exceeded, as well as that the concentration of arsenic at one station was almost 100 times higher than the target value.
In Smederevo, there is a noticeable increase in air pollution caused by the work of the Smederevo iron and steel factory. The measuring station “Radinac”, which is within the network of the Environmental Protection Agency and is located in the immediate vicinity of the factory, was put into operation again at the end of 2019. The only data on measurements at this station cover a fifteen-day period from 28 December 2019 to 11 January 2020. These results showed very high concentrations of suspended particles in the air, which shows a direct relationship between the operation of the factory and air pollution. However, there was no new data after this period, and this station was not mentioned in the Agency’s Report. In Smederevo, there are two more stations within the state network, whose data have unequivocally shown that the air in this city is excessively polluted.
Does this data present an accurate picture of air quality?
It is noticeable that on the most stations where the air is rated as clean, the concentration of the suspended particles is not being measured. Among the stations in the cities classified as the first category (where the air was rated as clean), the concentration of PM10 particles was not measured at 12, while the concentration of PM2.5 particles was not measured at 17 stations. These data show that it is necessary to further improve the monitoring system within the national network, so that the measuring stations provide data on the concentrations of all pollutants. In addition, the number of local institutes that contribute to the Agency’s Report also puts on the agenda the issue of improving local monitoring, which local self-government units must do in cooperation with local public health institutes. Institute for Public Health of Serbia „Milan Jovanović Batut“ in its annual analyses called „Urban Air Pollution on the Territory of the Republic of Serbia Measured in the Network of Public Health Institutions in 2019“, states, among other things that „The trend of low representation of PM 10 and PM 2.5 particle pollution monitoring has been continued“.
Data from the Environmental Protection Agency indicate that the competent authorities have not taken significant or at least appropriate measures directed towards reduction of the air pollution, and that systemic solutions are still lacking. It is noticeable that in cities where excessive pollution is caused by industry, the competent authorities do not exercise all its powers entrusted by the law in order to avoid, prevent or reduce harmful effects on human health and/or the environment.
Air quality assessment, provided by the Environmental Protection Agency, is a initial document in further creation of legal acts and public policies in the field of air protection, since the Law on Air Protection prescribes that in all agglomerations in which air quality is of the third category air quality plans need to be adopted, which, inter alia, prescribes measures that public authorities will be obliged to implement in order to reduce pollution. In addition, the Ministry of Environmental Protection was obliged to prepare, and the Government of the RS to adopt the Air Protection Strategy in the Republic of Serbia, as an umbrella document on the basis of which air quality plans shall be adopted, no later than 1 January 2015. However, the Air Protection Strategy has not been adopted up to date.
The results of air quality monitoring confirm that in this area, as well as in other areas of environmental protection, greater investments are required, as well as coordination of authorities responsible for the implementation of air quality protection measures and its compliance with legal regulations.
The review of the Annual Report on the Air Quality in the Republic of Serbia in 2019 was conducted by:
- Renewables and Environmental Regulatory Institute
- Belgrade Open School