Serbs Protest for Clean Air After Topping Pollution Death List

(Bloomberg) -- Serbian activists are staging nationwide protests, demanding the government fight pollution after the Balkan state was ranked worst in Europe for deaths resulting from smog.

With 175 fatalities per 100,000 people, Serbia topped the list of European states for mortality attributed to pollution and ranked ninth globally, faring worse than India, according to the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution.

Activists in 21 cities will organize protests and events and distribute fliers to spread awareness of the health hazard Wednesday. Local political movements are also planning to join with other countries in the coming weeks including Bosnia-Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Kosovo and Montenegro, which make the Western Balkans one of Europe’s most polluted regions.

“Within a month we plan a regional event with other cities to demand clean air as a basic human right,” said Dobrica Veselinovic, a member of the organization Don’t Let Belgrade D(r)own.

President Aleksandar Vucic, whose ruling party has been blamed for doing too little to fight smog, says higher living standards are behind the pollution. Serbia is also home to 1.4 million used cars that are at least 14 years old, making up almost three quarters of all personal-use vehicles.

Protesters are calling for timely and transparent health alerts and restricted traffic on days when pollution is high. Cleaning up the air, however, may become the costliest part of Serbia’s efforts to join the European Union, which it hopes to do sometime this decade.

“Our green agenda to make Europe a carbon-neutral continent in the next 30 years will change ways of transport, how we build buildings, how we look at the problem,” EU delegation chief Sem Fabrizi said in Belgrade. “It’s very costly but it’s a way for the future.”

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