Dear Minister Reshitaj,
I would like to begin by saying that I have been living in Pristina for over 18 months now and I truly feel at home. I enjoy Pristina’s people, its lively music scene, its appetizing restaurants and small, family-run food heavens. I like to walk on Mother Theresa street and run in Gërmia park.
However, like many of you here today, I do not enjoy the quality of the air I breath, particularly in the winter - when breathing can become difficult and my eyes and throat burn from the pollution. I fully sympathize with the citizens of Kosovo who insist something be done to tackle air pollution.
So, it is my great pleasure to be here today to open this Workshop on Air Quality Management in Kosovo and to launch a new study on air quality management. The goal is to define the problem so that real solutions can be found. This analytical work focuses on collecting more evidence to better address ambient air pollution, not just in Kosovo, but also in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Macedonia.
Poor ambient air quality remains a significant challenge in Pristina and across the country. In fact, on several occasions since the start of the new year, the air quality in Prishtina in terms of PM2.5— fine particulate matter—has exceeded the healthy breathing levels.
This study will analyze the health and economic impacts of ambient air pollution. In addition it will try to understand where the pollution comes from and the relative contribution of each source to the air pollution problem. It will also review the institutional framework for air quality management.
The analyses in Kosovo will be a collaborative effort. The World Bank and a team of external experts will work with the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, the Kosovo Environmental Protection Agency, the Kosovo Hydro-Meteorological Institute, the National Institute of Public Health, the Municipalities of Prishtina, Obiliq and Fushë-Kosovë, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and other donors.
The result of this work will inform preliminary policy recommendations for improving air quality management in all three countries, and will guide the dialogue on World Bank assistance in this area.
High concentrations of ambient particle pollution, notably PM2.5, translate not only into health burdens but also carry big economic costs. The last time we looked at the costs, in our 2013 Kosovo Country Environmental Analysis, the estimated health costs of air pollution in Kosovo were between €38 and €163 million a year, based on data available in 2010. This study will give us a new estimate on what the health costs are today.
Since the 2013 study, Kosovo has taken steps to improve air quality.
For example, with assistance from the World Bank, the open, dry coal ash transport system at Kosovo A power plant was replaced by an environmentally-sound hydraulic wet system. The 179-hectare ash dump, created from 50 years of open ash dumping, was stabilized and covered with soil to allow for revegetation. These measures were so effective that monitoring points near the ash dump no longer register ash dust.
An additional 653 hectares of overburden land near Kosovo’s power plants have also been reclaimed and the Kosovo Energy Corporation (KEK) has installed new electrostatic precipitators in the Kosovo A power plant - significantly reducing particulate matter emissions.
The World Bank has also assisted in making Kosovo’s aging public buildings more energy efficient. Renewable energy systems have been installed in eleven public buildings in Pristina – including hospitals and university buildings – and dozens of additional buildings around the country are undergoing similar renovations in support of Kosovo’s energy efficiency and renewable energy targets.
Much work remains to be done, however. Pristina is growing. New buildings are going up and more cars are hitting the roads. Many single-family homes and some businesses still rely on inefficient, high-pollution coal and firewood for heat.
Effectively cutting air pollution requires short and long-term interventions by the public sector, investments and improved business practices by the private sector, and behavioral change by individuals and households.
To this end, the World Bank will continue to help Kosovo mitigate and reverse pollution so that we can all breathe a little easier.