CHANGES IN AIR QUALITY IN KOSOVO OVER THE YEARS
An interview with Letafete Latifi, Environmental and Social Performance Consultant at MFK, who unveils her experience as an envionmental expert involved in air quality issues for over 20 years.
Based on the data of the Kosovo Environmental Protection Agency (KEPA), in Prishtina, the air is unhealthy and dangerous more than 50% of the time. But how has air quality in Kosovo changed over the years?! Is the air more polluted now compared to before?!
- Based on your extensive experience in the field of environment, specifically in the field of air quality monitoring and management, can you tell us what the air quality trend is like in Kosovo, and which area is most polluted?
From my experience in this field so far, it is noticed that the air quality in Kosovo is poor due to high concentrations of dust particles PM10 and PM2.5 in the air, but in recent years these concentrations have a downward trend, and it is noticed a trend of air quality improvement compared to previous years 2013-2018. However, the issue of air quality in Kosovo is still problematic, especially during the winter season and in urban areas, where the contribution of air emissions is higher, and when atmospheric conditions are unfavourable for the disbursement of pollutants in the air.
The emphasis lies on the parameters PM10 and PM2.5 (particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter < 10 microns and <2.5 microns), as in our country the issue of air pollution comes mainly from the high concentrations of these two parameters. Whereas, regarding concentrations in the air of other pollutants that have been monitored during this period, such as SO2 (sulphur dioxide), NO2 (nitrogen dioxide), CO (carbon monoxide) and O3 (ozone), there were no significant excesses, with exception of any sporadic cases of exceedance of the allowed value of NO2 for specific areas during specific periods, due to increased activities in the vicinity of monitoring stations, as well as rare cases of exceedance of allowed value of O3 (Ozone in lower layers of the atmosphere) during the summer season.
If we evaluate the air quality in different areas of Kosovo, it is noticed that the region of Prishtina, including the City of Prishtina, Fushë Kosova and Obiliq are the areas with the highest air pollution. This is due to the fact that this area is more industrialised and has higher population density, as well as congested traffic.
- Is there enough information for the citizens to understand and be informed in time about the air quality in Kosovo?
In recent years, citizens are well informed and in real time about the air quality, thanks to the investments made both by donors and by government institutions in increasing the performance in the field of information and transparency of air quality data.
Currently, citizens can be informed about the air quality for the area where they live through various smartphone applications developed by government institutions, but also by the civil society sector, all of which are based on the data from the national air quality monitoring network, managed by the Kosovo Hydrometeorological Institute. The National Air Quality Portal has been developed / created, through which citizens and institutions can receive real time information on the air quality. In the same sources of information (smartphone application and air quality web portal), citizens can also be informed about the three-day air quality forecast, which will enable them to plan outdoor activities and reduce exposure to polluted air, as a preventive measure to maintain their health and change their behaviour towards air quality.
- Has it been done enough to improve the air quality in Kosovo, and what do you think should be done in the future in this aspect?
I think there is much to be done in terms of improving the air quality, in spite of some actions that have been taken so far.
Given that there is an Action Plan for Air Quality at the national level, where a certain number of measures for the improvement of air quality are listed, it is time for these measures to be applied concretely, for concrete actions to be undertaken both at the local level as well as by economic operators.
Municipalities must draft Local Plans for Air Quality in order to identify specific measures for each municipality, and establish a good basis to guide investments in contributing to pollution prevention and air quality improvement, which means investments in the implementation of projects that will directly or indirectly affect the reduction of air pollutant emissions and improvement of the air quality. It should be invested in energy efficiency and in the use of clean energy for indoor heating in institutions and residential houses, then in organizing public transport, as well as in many, many other measures, which, as I mentioned before, are also listed in the national Action Plan for Air Quality.
In order to be informed and undertake measures to protect yourselves from the air pollution, please visit every day, at any time the smartphone application Air Quality in Kosovo, official Kosovo Air Quality Portal, as well as the official website of the Kosovo Hydrometeorological Institute (KHMI).