AirCare Pollution App Now Available
Serbia holds an average air pollution index of 58.86 and the southern town of Nis is the country’s most polluted city.
Public health institutions in Serbia have issued warnings and a conservative estimate suggests, that because of air pollution, more than 1,000 Serbians suffer from chronic bronchitis, 600 are hospitalised due to respiratory or cardiovascular problems, and more than 5,000 die yearly.
In 2014 in neighbouring North Macedonia, Gorjan Jovanovski – a software engineer, created an air monitoring app in 2014 called MojVozduh (MyAir), which draws directly from public data around Macedonia- and he has now created one for Serbia called AirCare.
Jovanovski’s first app MojVozduh saw major success. As well as users accessing the webpage, MojVozduh has been downloaded on Android and iOS by near 100,000 users – an astonishing feat for Macedonia a country of 2 million. As a result, there has been an increase in the accessibility of information for Macedonians and many demonstrations have taken place in the last few years as discontent with the air pollution problem grows. He is optimistic to recreate that success in Serbia.
“I have been thinking of expanding AirCare around the Balkans for a while now. I chose Serbia as a starting point because of it’s closeness to Macedonia,” says Gorjan.
“They are both culturally and linguistically similar – and also share a similar air pollution problem, which made it a prime market to expand to…(Serbia was without) a local and localized application, citizens were using English apps to track the pollution,” says Jovanovski.
“With AirCare, now they have an app in Serbian, which helps spread the reach of this information further than before. We also plan on integrating volunteer sensors like we do in Macedonia, which will make it the first app in Serbia to aggregate data from multiple networks.”
“There are issues with air pollution in multiple cities around Serbia, and activists are already starting to take action,” he adds.
Indeed, the strength of feeling regarding air pollution is growing in its intensity. Dr Zoran Radojičić, the mayor of Belgrade, was recently sent a gas mask and letter of protest
But as with Eastern European economies industrial output, mining, and construction are hugely important industries in Serbia. Its leading exports: automobiles, insulated wire, tires, and electric motors all require substantial electricity. To cater to these needs, Serbia turns to lignite, or ‘brown coal’, which is highly pollutive, but found in abundance in Serbia in mines at Kolubara and Kostolac.
Coal power plants release substantial amounts of particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, and nitrogen –oxides, with the latter contributing indirectly to the formation of ozone. Of these, the most worrying for health are fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone. Concentrations of PM2.5 particles cause hazy air and contribute to respiratory illnesses, heart disease, stroke and cancer. Other hazardous substances emitted from the smokestacks of coal power plants are heavy metals, such as mercury, and persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as dioxins and polycyclic aromatic chemicals (PAHs).
But though the economic and human costs of pollution in Serbia are high and public pressure considerable, there have been few major efforts by the government to tackle pollution. Brown coal has an understandable appeal for energy in Serbia: it is abundant, cheap, there’s a large workforce that knows how to use it, and it makes the user largely energy independent from either their immediate neighbours, or from far-flung gas producers.
On renewables and clean energy, there have been some dips into the market but little planned effort to establish renewable energy as a serious part of the country’s energy sector. Despite the fact that European investors have shown interest by helping to build wind farms in Serbia, most government interest has so far been directed at: more coal. With plans across the country for new coal fired stations – these would be at least moderately more efficient than their predecessors, but with brown coal it can only be so efficient. With a life span of 40-50 years, it could lock the region into another half century of brown coal use. Building new coal power plants would mean that hazardous emissions and their effects on health would continue for many years.
Serbia has hopes of joining the EU and some progress is anticipated, with pressure, to come close to expected European standards. The cost of emission is expected to rise as the EU tightens its emissions-trading scheme, thus making the continued use of high emitting power sources uneconomical.
Gorjan is optimistic that is app will help by providing materials to Serbia’s citizens, and provide more political pressure than could ever be reasonably exercised by its EU neighbours.
“AirCare’s objective in Serbia is to serve as a tool for citizens and activists alike, to inform, educate and empower them to take action for a greener and cleaner future,”.
Reference : Forbes.com