If we observe Belgrade today, the condition could be generally assessed as bit good enough, said Dr Miroslav Tanasković, Advisor to the Director of the City Institute for Public Health. In individual parts of the city with low traffic, a lot of green areas and without stationary sources of air pollution in the surrounding areas, the situation is very good, while in the city centre with old traffic matrix and obsolete communal infrastructure the situation is bad.
Water quality in Belgrade
It is a positive thing that environmental pollution has not been on the rise in the past few years, although there is but minimum improvement. There is no more lead gasoline, Euro quality fuel has been introduced, the fleet is being restored and modernized, public city transport is developing, an increasing number of buildings is covered with remote heating system, sewerage network is being expanded, the percentage of waste being collected, selected and recycled in organized manner is rising, forestation is being intensified and maintenance of green area is being improved, but everything is happening very slowly, much slower than most citizens would want to, with the lack of funds being the typical justification.
Along with nice weather, the swimming season will soon begin on Ada Ciganlija. What is the quality of water of the "Sea of Belgrade"?
The Sava Lake on Ada Ciganlija, popularly called the "Sea of Belgrade", represents a bright spot of Belgrade when we speak about the quality of the environment. Water quality is fully in compliance with EU standards, local regulations, as well as WHO recommendations for swimming water, which is reflected in obtaining the "Blue Flag" of 2012, and Public Company JP "Ada Ciganlija" is the most deserving for this. Providing necessary sanitary conditions on the beach, continuous maintenance of the beach, collecting and draining all waste waters into the city sewerage system, controlled functioning of the Precipitator, directed work of the pump station on the partition toward the branch of Čukarica, as well as biomanipulation (removal of gown macrophyte vegetation) have a special role in preserving the quality of water of the Lake. I especially emphasize that the entire area of Ada Ciganlija represents the spring of Belgrade Water Supply System. According to the Law on Water, supplying the citizens with water has the priority over all other forms of use of water resources, which must be continuously taken into account regardless of the special significance of Ada Ciganlija as a recreational centre.
How often is water from public fountains in Belgrade being analyzed? What are the results of the latest analysis?
The control of physical-chemical and microbiological quality of spring water included 28 public fountains from the city centre area, namely the area of GUP. Quality of water at the most visited public fountains is monitored twice a month, and of others once a month. The slightest discrepancy of the microbiological quality of water from the prescribed one would be recorded at Sakinac, Miljakovac spring and St. Petka spring on Kalemegdan, as well as on the left Topčider fountain. Water at Miljakovac spring, Zelenjak spring, Hajdučka, Kneževačka, Jajinačka fountain and fountains around Miloš' Residence has the best physical-chemical properties. This condition practically keeps repeating month after month, and we should not expect significant improvement without restoring the spring ground and establishing zones of sanitary protection of springs.
What is it that the City Institute for Public Health has been implementing for the purpose of general improvement of the environment in our capital?
As an accredited institution, we are only conducting monitoring of the quality of the environment in the territory of the City, as well as targeted tests of pollution of individual segments of the environment in Belgrade and Serbia. On the basis of measurement results, we propose measures for remedy and improvement of the condition of the environment, which the commissioner of measurement is not obliged to implement. We also submit the measurement results to competent inspections and competent authorities for the taking of measures from their area of work. We are also preparing studies on evaluation of influence and assessment of risks of buildings and activities on the environment, as well as strategic evaluation of influence of certain plans and programs on the environment. We participate in preparation of programs, plans, projects and studies that are in any way related to the environment and people's health, as well as promotions of healthy life styles and campaigns of education and popularization of environmental protection, etc. A part of our daily activities is also education of personnel with the most diverse backgrounds, who will work on the activities of environmental protection. A lot is still missing, we are practically only making the first steps, we have started a lot but completed very few things. A significant improvement of environment in Belgrade could be achieved with the reimplementation of capital projects: bypass road around the city, relocation of the old railway station and industrial facilities with technology from 1950's, construction of subway, devices for treatment of communal waste water of central sewerage systems and realization of strategic projects such as: "Green Regulations" and "Blue Regulations". For the beginning, in Serbia, it would be necessary to build devices for the treatment of communal waste waters for all settlements with over 100,000 ES, regional sanitary landfills with recycling centers and devices for treatment of hazardous waste. Generally, I would consider it a great success if at least 50% of what is envisaged in the LEAP's of local self-government would be implemented in the next 5 years.
To what extent an ordinary person in Serbia thinks about waste and consequence that waste can cause in a long run?
How little we think about negative consequences of inadequate disposal of waste for the environment and people's health and how irresponsibly we behave is reflected in the fact that in the area of GUP over 100 illegal dumpsites have been registered, which, after removal, keep getting restored, and new ones keep being formed. Take a turn to any local road around the city and you will immediately understand how undeveloped awareness of the citizens is about the need for controlled disposal of all types of non-hazardous and hazardous waste. Such poor condition also indicates inefficient control and inadequate penal policy. On the other hand, in a large number of rural settlements in Serbia there is no organized collection and removal of garbage, so people are not given a possibility to behave differently. When it comes to hazardous waste, the situation is even more unfavorable. For years we have been unable to select a location for the construction of a plant for treatment of hazardous waste, because the citizens are insufficiently informed and they behave according to the principle "not in my yard", and politicians "not in my mandate".
What would you suggest that every citizen can do for the purpose of general improvement of the environment?
Each one of us can do a lot both at home and at the work place to improve the environment. As a doctor of preventive medicine, I think that complying with the principle "Prevention is better than cure" is extremely important in protection of the environment, but in our country this is generally not the case. IT would not harm us to introduce a little more traditional home upbringing, environmental education, respecting opinions of those who "overcame childhood illnesses" in this area, and which we are just starting to face. We must be less aggressive toward the surroundings and respect the fact that preservation of biodiversity is a precondition for our survival. We should clean our yard first, but not by throwing the garbage into our neighbor's yard. For everything that we do not want to see in our "yard" we must together makes sure that it does not appear in someone else's yard, or public property. Only if we abandon the widespread and deeply ingrained practice of shuffling our own responsibility onto someone else, or of leaving for tomorrow everything that we can do today, or behaving as if "it will not happen to me" or "Why me?", we may expect positive effects in preservation and protection of the environment.