(Cover photo © Vladimir Tadić)

During the previous months representatives of the Center for Environment talked with locals of vulnerable local communities of Bosnia and Herzegovina located near thermal power plants. Plants whose work is justified by the production of electricity are at the same time one of the largest polluters of the environment. Their impact on quality of life is measured by “black” statistics that testify to an increase in the number of cancer patients and other, and especially respiratory diseases. Pollution is transmitted by toxic waters and deadly dust, it does not know the boundaries, nor man’s age. Our interlocutors are connected by the struggle for a life worthy of man. Let’s transfer their stories.


Jezero 2: Mirna površina  krije ubitačne otrove i otpad, © Aleksandar Saša Škorić

Jezero 2: A peaceful surface hides deadly poisons and waste

-The majority of my neighbors dies at the age of 55. The average lifespan is short, and in those years people do not live well, because they are ill for half of a year. My generation is already suffering, and we are a lost generation, but the children are ill too. In the winter they do not go out, and in the summer dust often covers all the houses. The problem is that this situation is not solved by anyone, at least to provide better future for new generations – says Goran Stojak, president of the Bukinje Local Community in Tuzla, while showing the turquoise blue aquatic surface with visible edges of the smokestacks of the Thermal Power Plant Tuzla. It is the “Lake 2″, currently the only active landfill of slag of TPP Tuzla. It’s calm and appealing color surfaces hide within itself deadly toxins and waste. The pale tree without a crown runs from the shallows in the coastal area. Goran claims that anyone who touches water will immediately burn his finger.

Stojak:  “Da staviš ruku, za minutu bi izgorio prst”, © Aleksandar Saša Škorić

  © Aleksandar Saša Škorić     

Stojak: “If you would have put your hand, it would burn your finger in a minute”

Everything that TPP Tuzla filters is released through wastewater and ends up here in a vast, uncontrolled landfill, which currently has no environmental permit.

-I do not know in what system can this function like this at all? – says Goran.

Thermal Power Plant Tuzla: Everything according to the law

Tuzla’s residents have been facing numerous of problems for years and medias in Bosnia and Herzegovina are writing about it. Institutions always have the same answer. In one of the latest articles published by Radio Free Europe, the director of Tuzla Thermal Power Plant Izet Džananović claims: “the disposal of combustion products is in line with the latest technologies applied in Europe”. However, on the other side  “black” statistic shows other picture: the number of cancer patients, children with asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses is rapidly rising. Endangered local residents are seeking for answers to many questions, ranging from air pollution to the problem of toxic bombs.  Yet, the responses from  government is not coming.

Tuzla is one of the most polluted cities, not only Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also Europe. The thermal power plant pollutes the environment for decades, and the inhabitants pay tribute to life. The fight against pollution has been going on for years but without major improvement.

The recent amendments to the Spatial plan of the Tuzla Canton, which envisage, among other things, the formation of another landfill of slag in the Tuzla and Lukavac regions, were again triggered harsh public reactions. They regard the new moves of the authorities as the culmination of their arrogance, which does not end. Goran claims that this move would definitely mean an end for the inhabitants of these areas.

– The population deprecates on a daily basis. All locals come to the local community and complain. But the problem is that those who need to solve the problem, do not help, but will defile. Everything is done to cover up the problem. No one seriously tries to solve it-, says Goran.

Residents who are rebelling are preparing lawsuits. The outcome is uncertain.

– For everything you do, you have great pressures and police reports. Instead of them, the police will come to us-, Goran claims, adding:

– They should first start working according to the law. If a new landfill of slag is done, let’s do it properly. You can not say, “Here’s how we’ve been doing this for 50 years and that’s normal.” When you approach any institution, they will say that the water is satisfactory, and when you put your hand, a finger burns for a minute. What are we talking about at all?! –

Jezero 2 : Voda puna opasnih hemikalija, © Alesandar Saša Škorić

Jezero 2: Water full of dangerous chemicals
From Jale to the ocean

– None of the landfill of slag from the Tuzla Thermal Power Plant does not work in accordance with the regulations. This means that, among other things, the penetration of water full of heavy metals and chemicals into groundwater is not prevented, and occasionally this untreated water is released into the water streams, justifying it as a “scheduled discharge”. This is in contravention of regulations and permits, but unfortunately the inspection does not respond-, explains Denis Žiško, coordinator of the Energy and Climate Change Program at the Center for Ecology and Energy from Tuzla.

Žiško: “Nijedno odlagalište šljake TE Tuzla nije radilo u skladu sa propisima”, © Aleksandar Saša Škorić

Žiško: “No depot of slag TPP Tuzla did not work in accordance with the regulations”

Poisonous water flows into the water stream of the Jala River, Jala flows into Spreča, Spreča into Bosnia, Bosnia in to Sava, and so on. Pollution does not know the boundaries. Rivers carry heavy metals, the wind carries toxic particles. Corn fields and arable land are on the banks of the Tuzla turquoise lake. Food grown on this land undoubtedly arrives to one’s table. How safe is it?

Heavy metals in hair and food

The Center for Ecology and Energy conducted analyzes of slag, water, human hair and locally produced food. Heavy metals were found in all analyzed samples.

– As usual, the reaction of the authorities is that it is not a credible analysis by some NGOs, and that is probably not true. Our answer to this is that it is true that this is not a comprehensive analysis, but that it is certainly a good indicator that the problem exists. We have always asked for the authorities and competent ministries to conduct the right analysis which will once and for all prove whether or not this is harmful to human health and the environment-, emphasizes Denis Žiško.

The thermal power plant in Tuzla started to produce electricity in 1963. More than half a century has passed since then. There are no official and comprehensive analyzes of the consequences of waste materials produced by this thermal power plant on human health and the environment, and the number of cancer patients in the Tuzla Canton area is growing. As the world is abandoning  coal practice, Tuzla plans to build a new block of thermal power plants.

Does this mean that we will be sentenced to another 50 years of poisoning? That we will have another poison lake? More polluted air? More cancer patients? Unfortunately, the plan for the new landfill of slag suggests that the old practice, without control, analysis and care for human health and the environment continues. Ask yourself: is it and to whom is the cheap electricity more important than human life?

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