Clean air takes centre stage at Sarajevo Film Festival


Second annual Enviro Day sees the UN Environment Programme and Sarajevo Film Festival join forces to raise awareness of the importance of clean air in Bosnia and Herzegovina – home to some of Europe’s most polluted cities.

Poor air quality is responsible for 44,000 years of life being lost in Bosnia and Herzegovina every year, according to the European Environment Agency. It costs the country $7.23 billion, or 21.5 per cent of national GDP annually, says the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Air pollution is an invisible killer and a hidden limiting factor to the GDP growth of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said UN Environment Regional Director for Europe Jan Dusik.

“Yet solutions stemming from district heating, public transport systems and energy efficiency in general are easily available and can boost the local economy while improving the quality of life of Bosnians. This partnership with the Sarajevo Film Festival is vital in spreading this message among the general public and local population,” he said.

The Enviro Day held at the Sarajevo Film Festival will see experts from UN Environment, WHO and the Federal Hydrometeorological Institute present the latest scientific knowledge on Sarajevo’s air quality and on ways to improve it.

Experts will also perform a live demonstration of instruments used to monitor pollution in the city’s air. Finally, Cantonal Prime Minister Elmedin Konakovic will attend a photo exhibition on efforts to measure air pollution throughout history, organized by the European Union Delegation.

Earlier in 2016, UN Environment opened two new air quality monitoring stations in Bosnia and renovated two others. The two new facilities are located in the cities of Gorazde – where the safe threshold for solid particles has been exceeded 19 times since 8 December 2015 – and Prijedor. The two renovated stations are in Ivan Sedlo and Banja Luka.

As a result, accurate data is available in real-time to monitor climate change and announce pollution alerts to the general public, as well as to measure the impact of policy measures to improve air quality.

The latest data from the stations shows that air quality is currently at safe overall levels, yet last winter – when pollution levels are seasonally higher – WHO pointed to the Bosnian cities of Zenica, Banja Luka, Sarajevo and Tuzla as one of the most polluted in Europe.

Two cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina have meanwhile joined the UN Environment-led Global District Energy in Cities Initiative. Banja Luka and Sarajevo form part of the programme, which supports national and municipal governments in their efforts to develop, retrofit or scale up district energy systems – one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A project launched by Banja Luka with UN Environment in January will modernize the city’s heating network and could reduce fuel consumption by 27 per cent, leading to a reduction of 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year and 4.5 million euro in fuel cost savings.

The installation of ‘smart’ solar benches in Sarajevo by UNEP and the United Nations Development Programme at last year’s edition of the film festival is meanwhile already bearing fruits. The six benches – sponsored by the Swedish Embassy – have since used solar energy to charge mobile phones 17,520 times, equivalent to saving 44kg of carbon dioxide emissions.

The main culprits behind Bosnia’s air pollution are emissions from traffic, household stoves and local heating using heavy fuel oil, and high-intensity energy used to power industry.

Last December, heavy smog caused schools in the country’s capital to close early for the winter break. Air pollution has since been identified as one of the two greatest health threats in the pan-European region together with climate change by UN Environment’s sixth Global Environment Outlook report.

Note to editors The Sarajevo Film Festival is one of Europe’s biggest. The theme for this year’s Enviro Day – organized by the festival and UN Environment for the second consecutive year – is ‘U Zdravom Tijelu Zdrav Vazduh,’ or ‘Clean air for a healthy body’.

Over 44,000 years of life are lost in Bosnia and Herzegovina each year due to particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide or ozone pollution, states European Environment Agency data. View the latest data from air quality monitoring stations opened by UN Environment here.

The sixth Global Environment Outlook report for the pan-European region, issued in June 2015, found that outdoor and indoor air pollution are among the two greatest health threats for the region, and analyses policies undertaken to address them.

UN Environment has acted to improve air quality in Bosnia following Resolution 7 of the first United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-1), which mandated it to support governments through capacity building, data provision and assessments of progress.