Schools close as Bosnians are hit by air pollution
Local campaigners hand out free facemasks on streets of Sarajevo

With world leaders and scientists struggling to find ways to fight environmental disaster, Bosnia and Herzegovina is reeling from serious air pollution – forcing the state to dismiss schools and some residents to don facemasks.

With the arrival of winter and low temperatures, the country’s capital, Sarajevo – located at the bottom of a valley – has recently been waking to clouds of dust.

Martin Tais, an expert tasked by the UN to draft a Bosnian report on air quality and climate change, told Anadolu Agency that pollution in the Balkan country is a significant problem.

According to Tais, Bosnia has not done anything in the area of prevention, making air pollution more noticeable year after year.

He argues that the all three major industrial cities of Bosnia – Sarajevo, Zenica and Tuzla – have all been badly affected by the pollution, with dust and sulfur dioxide readings high in the capital.

"This is the beginning of the Sarajevo winter... Although Zenica has the highest amount of sulfur dioxide and is the most polluted, Sarajevo catches up with it in dust. And Tuzla has problems with its air," said Tais.

He blames the large number of old diesel vehicles on the cities’ roads which release particles that accumulate for days.

Sarajevo’s local education authority suspended classes in elementary and secondary schools on Thursday.

Science minister Elvir Kazazovic told local media that the decision to suspend classes was not because of air pollution, but because of "pressure from parents and the public”.

Kazazovic said that current levels of contamination were not at the emergency limits set by legislation.

However, some pediatricians in Sarajevo say they face an increased number of children patients coming to them with symptoms of respiratory infection.

"We are late with the initiative of the parents that lead the state to suspend schools," said Dr. Lutvo Sporisevic.

Sporisevic said that children and pregnant women were the most vulnerable to pollution.

"We need to pay attention to people who are at risk: pre-school, school children, pregnant women, older persons and patients with chronic diseases.

"They should not go out until the smog leaves the city and they have to leave the house; it is advisable to wear protective masks or scarves over the respiratory system,” he added.

One local charity in the center of Sarajevo is already distributing free facemasks to the public.

Pomozi.ba founder, Elvir Karalic, told Anadolu Agency there had been "huge interest” from Sarajevo residents in the masks.

"These are European standards which provide complete security to people. Due to the situation in the city and in the country in terms of air pollution, we decided to go with the action of distributing masks for the residents."

One such resident, Bajro Avdic, said that he had trouble breathing due to the pollution.

"I'm afraid of pollution. As they say, it's dangerous, and I choke. I cannot move but every day I have to go somewhere," he said.

The distribution of facemasks will carry on six days a week, amid the poor conditions.

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Last Modified: 2015-12-24 09:27:37
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