Study shows dangerous levels of air pollution in W Balkans

Ljubljana – The Green Light World Flight project, headed by pilot Matevž Lenarčič and scientist Griša Močnik, has been measuring air quality in the Western Balkans this year. Sarajevo is one of the world’s most polluted cities, they warn, noting that old cars and outdated energy systems are also causing problems in Belgrade.

Lenarčič, a famous Slovenian pilot and climate change researcher, used a Slovakian Advantic WT-10 Research aircraft to carry out measurements that focused on the territories of Bosnia and Serbia. The study was dedicated to this Western Balkans area also because the NLB group, active in the region, had joined the project as a sponsor.

In Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, air pollution levels are up to ten times above EU limits and sometimes similar to those in Beijing, New Delhi and Mumbai.

The situation in Serbia’s capital Belgrade is also bad, the Green Light World Flight team, which has been doing pollution research worldwide, said at Wednesday’s presentation of the results of measurements taken this winter.

Močnik, Green Light Word Flight research project manager, pointed to the higher pollution levels in basins compared to open spaces, noting that the main sources of pollution in the Western Balkans are traffic, heating and industry, particularly old cars and thermal power plants.

Air pollution in the region is also significantly linked to energy poverty, both Lenarčič and Močnik said, urging systemic changes and assistance from abroad to pursue more environmentally friendly investment.

Močnik raised concern about the recent comeback of fossil fuels that was prompted by the war in Ukraine.

“Instead of using the crisis as an incentive to switch to green and sustainable fuels, it looks like we will just be switching to other fossil fuel sources or even to technologies that we have already abandoned, which is a disaster,” he said.

Since 2012, Green Light World Flight has clocked more than 220,000 kilometres in 1,200 hours using specially equipped light aircraft that are as environmentally friendly as possible.

The project, which is set to wrap up in 2024, has covered all oceans and continents, and measurements have been taken in 112 countries, including China, but results from there have not yet been disclosed due to permit issues.

The team would like to do measurements in Antarctica as well and counts on the new government to help them achieve this.