However, despite the kovida-19 pandemic, the black numbers of PM and SO concentrations2, NO2 the other pollutants were no milder, on the contrary, they set records again.
However, although it is often said that statistics are a perishable category, data on the concentrations of certain harmful and carcinogenic substances in the air inevitably place Serbia in the very top of European and world countries in this regard.
Accordingly, while the competent authorities pretend to be powerless when it comes to solving the problem of bad air that their citizens breathe every day, and because of that they sometimes get sick and suffer, my idea was to learn from those same citizens their views on this problem.
As part of his master’s thesis, Nenad Spasojevic conducted a public opinion poll, striving to get answers from citizens from all over Serbia, taking into account the fact that the problem of this poll is national.
The research was carried out from 1 to 13 August 2020, ie two months before the start of the heating season in Serbia, when pollution concentrations are by far the highest, which we are witnessing this winter as well. and the results were published by Spasojević on the Klima101.rs portal.
How are citizens informed about pollution?
The frequent problem of informing about this topic was among the first questions in the research, and the citizens pointed out that the media – 31.7 percent and social networks – 28.9 percent were among their primary sources. And while standard media often neglects this topic, social networks as much more viral media in conjunction with the sharing of content from individual applications are gaining increasing primacy.
Also, applications (AirVisual and AirCare), which are followed by 14.2 percent of respondents, show a growing trend of popularity among citizens, while the website of the Environmental Protection Agency is far less visited.
Air pollution as a problem cannot be hidden and the citizens believe that the air is not only polluted, but they also give it very negative assessments in terms of quality. Namely, the vast majority of as many as 84.5 percent of them believe that the air in the whole of Serbia is polluted or excessively polluted.
The grayness of the sky over Serbia in the direction of this percentage is also shown by the fact that 86.5 percent of citizens point out that the air in their places of residence is also polluted.
Therefore, they should not be surprised by the very bad grades that citizens give in terms of air quality on a scale of 1 to 5. Grades 1, 2 and 3 dominate, while the average score is below the average for this scale and is very poor 2.37.
Such attitudes show that the citizens of Serbia see the problem with the quality of the air they breathe, and, since it can often be seen and felt, they rightly rate it as extremely bad.
How do citizens evaluate the work of competent bodies?
One of the main questions is where and what the competent institutions are, which are certainly among the most responsible for the current situation not getting better. In accordance with the winter dream in which they obviously fell, bodies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, line ministries, as well as local authorities did not receive positive evaluations from the citizens for their work.
When it comes to transparency in reporting on air quality, a huge 84.8 percent of citizens believe that those responsible are not doing their job adequately. There is nothing better when it comes to solving the problem of air pollution, because 72.9 percent of citizens believe that the competent authorities are not doing enough. Another 21.9 percent of respondents believe that the authorities are doing their job, but that in addition there are no visible results of their work, given that the problem is still largely present.
According to these views, the competent authorities have their hands full, and they will need a lot of work to improve the negative image of themselves in public.
Impact on health
Over time, citizens probably came to the conclusion by connecting different sources of knowledge about the negative effects that pollution has on their health. Thus, in support of that, the position of three quarters of the respondents is that air pollution greatly affects the health of citizens.
On the other hand, when it comes to specific health problems, among the most common citizens pointed out: breathing problems and related asthma and bronchitis, cardiovascular problems and more.
If we connect this problem with the current pandemic of the kovid-19 virus, it is certain that citizens with respiratory and cardiovascular diseases are among the most endangered, and in many scientific papers in the previous year presented data linking polluted air with a higher risk of death due to kovida-19
Which sources of pollution do the citizens of Serbia point out as the most important?
As the biggest air pollutants, the citizens in Serbia, mostly with 30.6 percent, point out that they are factory plants. As for other sources, they rank traffic, thermal power plants, but also individual fireplaces among the leaders, but only 14.6 percent of them see that source as the most important.
Although individual fireboxes, according to the data of the Environmental Protection Agency, are certainly the biggest source of pollution, we should not be surprised by this order of the biggest polluters in the responses of citizens.
Namely, large furnaces in the form of factory plants and thermal power plants have been polluting the air in Serbia for decades, and the citizens have created an image of them, which is also expressed in these answers.
What is inevitable is that the problem with individual furnaces and thermal power plants is a very big challenge for the state in terms of emissions. Therefore, the process of solving this problem will require a lot of investment, but also time until these problems are solved.
As the heating season is the period when pollution is most pronounced, it is interesting to point out the data on the way in which the citizens of Serbia heat their homes.
Two energy sources, wood and coal, which mostly pollute the air with carcinogenic PM particles, are at the same time the most common in our country, so 41.8 percent of respondents heat themselves using these fuels. Immediately behind them is central heating, which is used by 28% of respondents, while other energy sources are obviously expensive for citizens in Serbia, and therefore they are far less represented.
The high percentage of wood and coal users shows why individual fireboxes in Serbia are the largest emitters of particulate pollution, while at the same time alternative, far more acceptable fuels are underrepresented.
The question of activism in solving this problem brought very interesting answers. 30.8 percent of citizens would be ready to join protests, public advocacy or individual measurements, while slightly less than sigurno would certainly not participate. The majority of 44.9 percent of citizens are undecided, and that uncertainty can be reflected in the thinking that it is difficult to make any changes in Serbia and that this process often takes too long.
Certainly, this percentage represents a large human capital, which can lead to positive changes in the coming period when this or any other environmental problem is in question.
Citizens recognized the problem of polluted air, but the choice of proposals for its solution was somewhat surprising. Namely, they have largely highlighted the answers that are based on turning to greater energy efficiency.
Thus, the citizens mostly emphasize the so-called standard phrase – the need for greater investment in the installation of filters, and immediately afterwards the need to strengthen energy efficiency measures and a faster transition to RES (renewable energy sources).
Given that wood and coal are the energy sources most often used by citizens for heating, the following data are commendable: Citizens support the transition to alternative energy sources, and thirdly emphasize the need to enable greater and more favorable use of environmentally friendly fuels, but also greater subsidies. energy production from RES.
When we look at the results, we notice that the citizens realize that the air is polluted, that it harms their health, but that they also have suggestions on how to improve the situation. However, it is obvious that the wind will blow again for a long time and carry the pollution if the competent authorities do not start in the meantime, and the citizens do not continue to draw their attention to the problem, otherwise the pollution will continue to live with us.
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