Toxic neglect

Nikola Todorov. / Photo: Free Press Archive

A new autumn has arrived that will bring us another toxic winter. The question remains: will we see real measures or are we doomed to drown in the sea of ​​empty election promises?

Too much has happened in the last two weeks. A person does not know which topic to take. From important - more important, from interesting - more interesting. But when I think more deeply, it's all already seen. Macedonia has been dealing with politics for too long, and too little dealing with crucial problems. If I had to list the biggest problems facing the country, which enjoy the least focus of the government, but also of the public, the first and biggest would be the demographic exodus that is happening to the country and its literal disappearance before our eyes, supplemented by historical the biggest eviction, and the second would be the enormous pollution of air, water and soil.

Just as emigration overshadows the birthrate problem, so the sunny weather pushes the topic of pollution into oblivion. And so every year, the sun and wind reduce pollution, but also the chance to solve this huge existential problem. But this year the chance to solve this problem was additionally killed by the most responsible, the Minister of the Environment, who informed us in an interview with Radio Free Europe that it is illusory to think that we can solve the problem of air pollution in four years! Watch out rich, it took at least 10-20 years. I read, wonder and wonder, why didn't you tell us this when you campaigned and convinced us that you would bring life?

Before the elections in 2016, you promised clean air and solving this problem. A part of the people believed you, and a part of those who believed you, maybe only because of that mega promise, supported you in those elections. It should have taken more than 6 years for you to gather the courage to inform us that it takes 10-20 years to fix the problem. We were promised clean air, but what we got is a toxic reality.

Properly poisoned

If it wasn't for the "Guardian" to open our eyes and make us aware of the fact that "the most affected country in Europe is North Macedonia, as almost two-thirds of people across the country live in areas with more than four times the WHO guidelines for PM2.5 .XNUMX, while four areas were found to have air pollution almost six times more than allowed, including in the capital, Skopje", we would still live in the hope that the authorities did something about this topic. And the environmental administration, strengthened by the non-governmental organizations that have made a miracle of money these ten years and more, will continue with the installation of meters, which will once again confirm what we have known for a long time, that we are properly poisoned.

I ended the end of the already distant year 2019 with a column dedicated to pollution, that is, with a detailed proposal to reduce pollution by at least 50% in 2021. Then I proposed the introduction of a ban on heating with wood, coal, oil and fuel oil from May 1, 2021, followed by a plan to expand the heating network, especially in Skopje and Bitola. I proposed to pass a law that would prohibit the granting of a permit for a newly constructed building if it is not connected to a central heating network, if such a network exists nearby, as well as prohibiting disconnection from the existing heating network, and the state should subsidize it from the budget the expansion of the heating network in order to make the connection free for citizens.

I proposed a new model for determining the price that households will pay for heating, which will be based on the household's monthly income, so those with lower incomes would pay a lower bill than those with higher incomes. I suggested that where it is not possible, that is, profitable, to build a heating network, to get pellet stoves, because it has been proven that pellet stoves pollute up to 32 times less than old wood stoves.

In order to facilitate this, I suggested that the Government should publish an advertisement that would attract a private company that would build a factory for pellet stoves in one of the free economic zones, and with which factory the government would conclude a contract for the supply of 75.000 pellet stoves over a period of 3 years. Pellet stoves should be provided free of charge to every household in cities where there is no heating or gasification network and whose household income does not exceed MKD 45.000 per month, with which an excellent 14% of households will receive a free pellet stove. At the same time, in order to control the price of pellets, I proposed that Macedonian forests build two factories for the production of pellets, one in the area of ​​Kruševo and Demir Hisar, and the other in the area of ​​Berovo/Pehčevo/Delcevo, with the aim of employing people in those regions, to provide pellets at affordable prices for citizens and subsidized prices for citizens with low incomes.

Deception instead of measures

I proposed that by October 2021, there would not be a single hospital, school, health center, dispensary, municipal building, center of culture, library, barracks, regional unit of a state authority or any public institution that would not be heated by gas, compressed liquid gas or pellets, regardless of whether it is located in the city or in the countryside. I proposed that a decision be made for all city transport buses in Skopje to be either methane or electric powered by May 2021, to subsidize the installation of gas devices for taxi drivers, with the goal that by 2023 all taxi vehicles or meet the EURO 6 standard, either on gas or methane. My goal was, because I know that pollution cannot be solved with a magic wand, that the effect be felt already in 2021, that is, by then, to reduce pollution by at least 50%.

None of this was done! The authorities did not move a finger. I proposed a plan, which maybe someone will criticize as poor quality or outdated, especially in the part about the purchase of pellet stoves, but, unfortunately, I did not see another plan. Here, be modern and propose a plan for renewable heating, by installing solar panels, geothermal pumps or similar, but please at least propose something and get to work. Thus, we see only an excuse that it is illusory to think that pollution can be solved in four years.

I claim again that it can, if the hourglass in every ministry and government is not reset and starts running again with each new government or with each new minister. We all know that more than 50% of the pollution problem is heating, especially wood, coal and fuel oil heating, but instead of hitting the problem head on and banning wood, coal and fuel oil heating in urban centres, we will we cheat by installing meters to prove whether heating contributes 55 or 56% to pollution. Very irrelevant and very manipulative.
Here comes a new autumn in this year 2023, which will bring us another toxic winter. The question remains: will we see real measures or are we doomed to drown in the sea of ​​empty election promises?

Taken from Deutsche Welle

(The author is a former minister)


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