How do Kosovans perceive environmental issues?Apr 4, 2018
Photo 1. Eco Yoga, submitted by Arijana Deshishku
How people perceive a thing tells a lot about how important and useful it is for them and how knowledgeable they are on it. In this line of thinking, UNDP Kosovo has asked Kosovar citizens’ perception on the problems and issues they face on a daily basis through the Public Pulse Survey. Biannually conducted, the UNDP’s Public Pulse Survey deals with a series of thematic issues, including environmental pollution as well as corruption and unemployment. With increasing side effects from air pollution these days in Kosovo, we become curious about how Kosovans perceive environmental pollution.
Photo 2. Danger from air pollution in Obiliq/ć, Kosovo, submitted by Bleron Caka
The latest Public Pulse survey conducted in October 2017 shows that approximately one in four Kosovans consider their local environment to be very polluted. In particular, the results showed residents of big cities, including Prishtinë/Priština, Prizren/Prizren, Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, and Ferizaj/Uroševac, tend to perceive their areas as being very polluted. This perception is also shared by residents from the municipality of Obiliq/Obilić where two power plants, Kosovo A and Kosovo B, are located. The majority (85%) of Obiliq/Obilić’s residents have already witnessed the impact of pollution on their daily lives, particularly in relation to air pollution.
Similarly, UNDP’s Kosovo Mosaic report 2015 which asks Kosovan citizens’ views on the quality of public services and performance of local authorities with respect to service delivery, found out that almost half of Prishtinë/Priština residents have health concerns caused by air pollution.
Nonetheless, according to the Public Pulse Survey, environmental pollution has been less prioritized for Kosovo citizens. The Public Pulse Survey XIII in 2017 shows that only 1.3 percent of respondents indicated that environmental pollution is the most pressing problem in Kosovo. This is a significant drop from the 4 percent of Kosovans who indicated environmental pollution was the most pressing issue in 2016. These findings show that environmental issues are becoming less of a priority for Kosovo citizens’ daily lives under the weight of corruption and unemployment ranked first place as the most urgent problem in Kosovo on last two surveys.
Photo 3. Restricted visibility - Train Station, Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje, submitted by Agon Nimani
However, such discrepancy between citizens’ perception and prioritization towards environmental pollution may bring about serious losses in Kosovo’s society in the short and long terms. As one example, air pollution increases the risk of strokes and cardiovascular diseases, as well as chronic bronchitis, and other respiratory diseases such as pneumonia and asthma, which can be especially fatal to children. In addition, economic loss is another concern because environmental pollution will be accompanied by decreased labor productivity and working days as well as reduced agricultural crop yields.
According to UN Habitat’s environmental risk reports, in order to increase resilience to potential threats from environmental pollution, there is a need to increase awareness at the local level. At this point, the most important is perhaps to create open discourse for Kosovo citizens to stay involved with environmental issues. However, it is also important to enforce national strategies and legislations on a policy level. The European Commission Staff Working Document published in 2016 for Kosovo, indicated that the national strategy for air quality and the law on ambient air quality were adopted, however, they are needed to be enforced.
Earlier this year, the air quality reached the highest level of pollution in Pristina, and it was considered hazardous for health. Only then did this result in a citizen protest. The Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning created a task force against air pollution, and the municipality of Prishtinë/Priština introduced an emergency plan to ban cars from driving in the city centers for about two days.
The lesson learned from this event is we need to be more proactive when thinking about environment in our daily lives.
Now, it is the time to talk more about environment.
* All the pictures appearing in this article were submitted by Kosovan citizens to an #Ecokosovo project, organized by various UN agencies (UNDP, UNDCO, UNV, and WHO) to raise awareness on environment and its impact on health in Kosovo as a way of photography competition.