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News 10 Jan 18

Macedonia Hires Drones to Spot Worst Polluters

As Macedonian cities endure another smoggy winter, environmental inspectors say they intend to get help from flying drones, which will search urban areas for secretive polluters.

BIRN
Skopje
Air polution in Skopje. Photo: Robert Atanasovski

Faced with growing discontent about the severe air pollution troubling the capital, Skopje, and other urban centres, Macedonia’s new government has hired drones to scan for possible culprits from the air.

“We have made a deal to rent two drones that will start scanning … all the areas where the charts show high air pollution,” Miroslav Bogdanovski, acting head of the State Environmental Inspectorate, told BIRN.

Bogdanovski said the drones would help a great deal in finding the worst culprits in industry who in the past have evaded cooperating with inspectors.

Often, he said, when inspectors came out to check a potential polluter during the evening or night hours, when pollution is usually highest, they would find closed doors.  The drones would now scan the area to see if there is any activity in factories that have officially declared themselves closed during the night.

The inspectorate said it would also soon hire specialized lab technicians to measure the pollution in a certain area almost instantly.

“It is one thing when the inspector goes out for inspection alone, and a completely different thing when, together with the staff of an accredited lab, he can measure the exact level of pollution,” Bogdanovski said.

As in the past few winters, people in Skopje this week have awoken amid thick fog and record levels of air pollution.

Some measuring stations in Skopje this week showed a concentration of more than 1000 micrograms of cancer-causing PM 10 particles per cubic metre of air, which places Skopje among the most polluted cities in global pollution charts. This is 20 times more than the maximum allowed level of 50 micrograms.

UK waste incinerator blamed for foul stench:

As the new government, elected in May, and the new Skopje Mayor Petre Silegov, who assumed office in October, struggle to fulfill their promises to curb pollution, the public this week was startled by news that a medical waste incinerator donated by the UK in 2001 might be partly responsible for the foul chemical-like stench that some residents of Skopje have reported.

After the inspectorate said it had fined Skopje’s landfill Drisla for using a medical waste incinerator 24/7 instead of the maximum eight hours per day, media have discovered that the incinerator in question was part of a UK donation provided to several Balkan countries in 2001 under World Health Organisation WHO guidelines.

The health inspectorate has now confirmed this information.

Media and social networks started citing an old article entitled “UK makes toxic gift to the Balkans”, published by the Guardian in 2001, saying that these incinerators do not satisfy EU regulations.

“This is one of the worst pieces of dirty technology dumping dressed up as aid that I have witnessed in eastern Europe,” the UK newspaper cited Adam Ostrowski, an expert on toxic waste management employed by the Basle convention, which regulates international trade in hazardous waste, as saying.

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