Serbia's National Environment Association (NEA) said on Tuesday that official data about air quality following the landfill fire in Belgrade did not offer true information on the level of pollution and the degree of threat to their health, while the fire was still smouldering after ten days.
Milenko Jovanovic of the NEA told the independent Danas daily that „in the expected fire in (Belgrade suburb) Vinca, there must have been more or fewer emissions of extremely toxic compounds, such as dioxins and furans, because this type of burning waste, from hazardous to communal, must contain them.“
Jovanovic, illegally fired as a former chief of the state Environmental Protection Agency, added that „the report does not talk about the level of vulnerability of citizens, which may be low or high, but we will never know, just because the appropriate values are not measured, and not at the right places, at the source, and at a dozen a locations that experts would define according to how far the smoke has gone, with the content of the dangerous compounds.“
According to him, pollution’s report contains only standard particles regularly monitored and refer to carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and PH particles that has been made public.
„It’s like diagnosing and treating COVID-19 only by measuring temperature. These are not adequate parameters that need to be monitored to understand the actual situation. It is normal to tell citizens: you are potentially endangered, stay at home, look after children and vulnerable categories, instead of saying there is no pollution, „Jovanovic said.
Besides, neither local nor republican authorities specified what caused the fires.
The Vinca landfill is the largest out of 1,000, primarily wild garbage lots in the country. The fire has been engulfing almost the whole city for days.
Belgrade authorities claim the fire has been under control, but it takes days to get rid of smoulders completely.
However, it was not the only landfill in Serbia that caught fire recently.
On Monday night, the emergency was declared in the part of the eastern town of Bor after a fire broke out at the local landfill.
„Due to massive quantity of smoke spreading towards the town and neighbouring villages, we decided to declare the emergency and engage additional machines,“ Bor Mayor Aleksandar Milikic said.
The fight against the fire lasted 72 hours on Monday night.
On Sunday, a landfill near the central town of Topola, was localised.
Last week, the landfill in the northern city of Novi Sad also caught fire and was put down after hours of firefighters struggle with it.
A city official said the fire broke out at an inactive part of the landfill and that there was no danger for people’s health.
Last April, the landfill in the southern city of Nis was also on fire, according to the information from the local Firefighter Brigade.
The environment will be among crucial issues in Serbia’s accession talks with the European Union and will need massive financing to fulfil the bloc’s criteria regarding the issue.
In recent weeks, environmentalists surprised the authorities with widespread protests about foreign investors’ pollution and forced a promise of a referendum on the Rio Tinto lithium mining in western Serbia.
However, the authorities say the environmental issues are politicised by the opposition, playing down the failures to deal with ecology properly.