According to the Report of the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), published in 2016, Kakanj Thermal Power Plant is amongst the ten largest European emitters of sulfur dioxide (SO2). The pollution emitted from this plant is spreading across Europe across borders. According to citizens of Kakanj, the number of cancer patients is growing almost daily, and consequences of the outdated power plant operations are almost unimaginable.
“Our thermal power plant uses domestic production brown coal for production of electric power, and we all know, both laymen and professionals, which are the products of combustion of brown coal in a thermal power plant, and that particles that are invisible to the naked eye, which in principle we all inhale, precipitate in our lungs, from young children to the elderly. And is a cause of severe illness with which we struggle greatly today. Kakanj is one of the most polluted cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina probably even wider, and in the region”, says Mirha Husika, an electrical engineer and associate of the Citizens Association” Alternative “.
Particles carried by the wind are spreading beyond the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina do not know almost anything about the extent and consequences of particles spreading.
“It goes so far that it’s unthinkable for an ordinary man. We still think that everything is accumulated around the Kakanj Thermal Power Plant. However, the extent of scattering of particles is so wide that people, ordinary laymen who do not understand the operation of a power plant other than that it generates electricity, cannot even imagine the consequences of spreading
The poll, conducted by the Association “Alternative” in Kakanj shows the large extent of citizens’ ignorance about this issue.
“A survey was conducted on a larger number of residents, school children and the elderly in terms of showing how people are concerned about how much air is polluted and whether there are some measures that could improve air quality. However, the results are devastating. People are not even aware of how much thermal power plant pollutes the air. They have no idea how to improve air quality in Kakanj, “says Mirha Husika.
Work more important than life
Citizens of one of the most vulnerable settlements in Kakanj, Čatić, after decades of fighting with the coal deposit located in their immediate vicinity, decided to address this problem.
“Čatici is a small place where all the industry is connected to the Kakanj Thermal Power Plant and coal depot, which has created great problems for us for decades. That’s why we organized ourselves into an informal group – ‘Eko Čatići’ and we are trying to promote healthy lifestyle, inform people about the importance of ecology and explain the impact of air pollution on human health, especially for a long period of time, “explains Dražen Filipović, a representative of the Eko Čatići group.
He points out that the landfill of the slag, close to which he lives, does not adequately take care of, which creates vast problems for them.
“Nothing here is disposed of properly, everything is in the open air, which means that the influence of wind, rain and all these external elements is significant. The worst is air pollution and small particles of falling coal. Especially if you do not have any wind and if it is foggy, then you can feel them on your lungs and on your teeth, “says Drazen. The consequences of this pollution are long-lasting and far-reaching.
“Most people think short-term, type ‘I do not feel it now’. However, many people have breathing problems and many other diseases that are directly related to high air pollution. The basic things were not resolved in a timely manner, and everything has been pushed under the carpet for some years, and it’s just that it’s important that people have a job, but it does not matter how we live, “Drazen concludes.
The number of patients is growing
Pollution in Kakanj, as the existing measurement units show, has been alarming in recent days and greatly exceeds all values that are set out as normal.
“In February 2018. , 511 cancer patients were registered in Kakanj. What matters is that the problem is not just Kakanj, but also Zenica and Sarajevo and Visoko and the surrounding cities across Bosnia and Herzegovina. For example, in Zenica, this number is three times higher, in Visoko there are approximately 720 people diagnosed with cancer. This number, unfortunately, rises with every year and every month”, says Mirha Husika.
The public in Kakanj, as in most cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, reacts when it’s too late. For many years and decades, we are all fighting the consequences, almost never solve the causes.
“Usually when everything is over, everyone wails ‘we did not know!’ The public should not be only to blame, because most often decision-makers inform the public formally but with frivolity. They probably expect nobody to get involved, and they formally fulfilled their legal obligation. The law strictly stipulates they are responsible for informing citizens, but also to work toward raising awareness of citizens about the consequences of the operation of the thermal power plant and all other pollutants in the environment and their health”, says Makusma Topalović, executive director of the Association” Alternative “.
On July 2017, this association filed a lawsuit with the Cantonal Court in Sarajevo. They sued the Federal Ministry of the Environment regarding issuing an environmental permit for block 8 TE Kakanj.
“The reason is very simple. They asked for a new environmental permit and they got it without involving the public! In fact, the Federal Ministry has violated its adopted law, which is Environmental Law. As much as we have previously complained and said that it is important that the public, the profession, and all stakeholders are involved in making such important decisions, they simply ignored it and excluded the public. This was a strong argument to file a lawsuit, but in the meantime, we will try to inform as many stakeholders as possible to get involved and give their opinion. After all, it is the interest of all of us, “Maksuma points out.
Landslides also took one life
In addition to all industrial pressures and air pollution, Kakanj has a problem in general with excessive exploitation of coal and land used for the purposes of the thermal power plant and the mine. The landfill of slag or ash deposits endanger the settlements that are located in their immediate vicinity and are often the cause of landslides formation.
Jasmina Neimarlija, a graduate ecology engineer and member of the Municipal Board of Naša stranka in Kakanj, says that these landfills and landslides greatly threaten the quality of life.
“Two years ago, the local community Ribnica and Mramor were in jeopardize. People from Mramor are moving out for years because this place is used as a slag dump. The worst case occurred in Bare settlement, where several years ago occurred a landslide that is slag dump. There was one fatal accident, and many families had to be evicted”, says Jasmina.
Slag and waste rock dumps are not being remedied properly. Instead of remediation, those dumps in Kakanj are getting bigger and bigger, especially in areas that are vulnerable to landslides.
“It was recognized 20 to 30 years, ago. However, nobody wanted to do anything about it. In these areas, all activities should be stopped and the soil should be remedied in order not to cause even more landslides, fatalities, and destruction of houses. Living in this area is no longer possible, “emphasizes Jasmina Neimarlija.
Health is too expensive
Dražen Filipović explains that citizens gathered in the Eko Čatići group try to inform the public from time to time about air pollution:
“We know that aero pollution has a harmful effect on us and that it is life-threatening and that it affects the quality of our lives, but we are not aware of how much. It should be strategically working on an entire educational program starting from the elementary school, but in the end, everything will be left to NGOs and groups of citizens who will bear all this burden. The state and all governmental organizations are inactive and very reactive. I citizens do something, they will react, and if they do not, they will leave it as it is.
It is clear that the situation, like this, has no future. But, apparently, it is not clear to those who create energy policies.
“To be clear thermal power plant Kakanj whatever deal with cannot reduce pollution, because thermal power plants should be closed down, not in the near future, but now. Our thermal power plants require desulphurization and denitrification plants, but to a giant such as Elektroprivreda and Thermal Power Plant, these utilities are very expensive. What is expensive for them, we pay with our health”, concludes Mirha Husika.