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news 22 Dec 14

Bosnians Rally Against Pollution in Zenica

Protesters rallied in the central Bosnian city to support a local green group’s lawsuit against the authorities and the local steel factory, accusing them of being responsible for long-term pollution.

Elvira M. Jukic
BIRN
Zenica
  Protests in Zenica over pollution / Photo by Eko Forum
 

Several hundred people gathered in Zenica on Sunday, accusing the ArcelorMittal steel factory of polluting the environment and the authorities of doing little to force the company to install air filters to tackle the problem. 

Eko Forum, a green campaign group from Zenica, is planning to file a lawsuit against the Federation entity, the local authorities and the company, which it accuses of releasing too much sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere.

“Three days of exceeding the amount of SO2 [sulphur dioxide] are allowed per year, and we have more than 200 days per year, and every year more and more. The situation is getting even worse,” said Samir Lemes of Eko Forum told the protesters.

“Those responsible missed the chance to react... they accused us of lying, of trying to close the factory. Inspections, which are the only thing that can sanction the polluters, levy only small, symbolic fines,” he said.

Eko Forum said it plans to sue the Federation entity’s Prime Minister and Environment Minister, the entity’s Department for Inspection Affairs, the mayor of Zenica, the city council and the Service for Communal Works for abuse of office and negligent performance of duty, and ArcelorMittal Zenica for pollution and damaging the environment.

  One of many graffiti in Zenica: "Mittal is poisoning us"  

ArcelorMittal is among the world's largest steel producers, with operations in more than 60 countries. The company has so far made no response to the protesters’ allegations.

Locals in Zenica have been complaining to the company for years about the lack of filters and the high levels of pollution, saying it poses a serious risk to public health.

Edina Sisic from the Tetovo area, which is close to the factory, said that the emissions were harming local children’s health. 

“I am not a medical expert but... our children are going for [respiratory treatment] more than others. I would like the medical statistics to be checked in Tetovo,” she said.

“I am here because I have a child... We deserve to breathe,” said another protester, Ahmed Topic.

However some people in the city are unwilling to criticise the steel factory because it employs around 3,000 people.

Zenica is home to around 115,000 people, and around 25,000 of them have jobs.

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