From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
UN: Alarming Levels of Pollution Reduced Life Expectancy in the Balkans

Citizens across the Western Balkans, including Albania are suffering from reduced life expectancy due to “alarming levels of air pollution”, according to a new report quoted by the New York Times.

Authored in collaboration between the United Nations and the World Health Organisation, a number of air quality management institutions in Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia were monitored over the course of a year.

The data was then analysed and showed concerning results. The report noted that “the population is exposed to some of the highest concentrations of air pollution in Europe– up to five times the EU guideline levels”.

The 18 major cities that were surveyed were found to average between 120 and 180 days of considerable pollution per year. EU laws restrict the number of days to just 35, meaning that cities in the region are over the limit, at the very least 85 days a year.

The report said that pollution was resulting in a number of premature deaths. On average, 26,000 years of life have been lost over the last decade due to air pollution. All of these deaths have occurred under the age of 65.

It added that air pollution causes between 15 per cent and 19 per cent of total mortality in the Western Balkan cities. This amounts to a reduction in life expectancy by between 1.1 and 1.3 years.

Issues such as the use of decentralised heating systems in buildings, coal power plants, and a “lack of access to modern renewable energy sources” were some of the reasons for the worrying statistics.

In its country progress report published last week, the European Commission criticized the Albanian government on its environmental and energy policy. It specifically questioned the impact of hydropower plants, incinerators, and tourist resorts  planned to be built in natural parks and protected areas throughout Albania.

Additionally, this latest UN report confirms the findings of a separate report that was published in January of this year by Numbeo. Tirana ranked as the 38th most polluted city out of 294 global entries, and 3rd out of European entries. The city’s placement on the list got worse by 16 places over the last two years despite the Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj and his tree planting, public transport, and cycle lane initiatives.

The list, also confirmed that cities in Bosnia, North Macedonia, and Serbia rank as some of the worst in Europe, again tallying with the findings of the UN and WHO report.

Veliaj, who just launched his campaign to run for a second term as the Mayor of Tirana, said that his campaign is about  “children and the future”. Speaking on June 1st, the day of children, he said that “the Socialist Party is not thinking about the upcoming elections, but about the next generation. It is a battle for children and the future.”

This is despite the fact that pollution in the city has got worse under his watch, shaving years of the life expectancy of its citizens.