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Sarajevo tops world's most polluted cities list

The Avaz Twist Tower building rises above as smog covers Sarajevo, Bosnia, 19 Dec 2023
The Avaz Twist Tower building rises above as smog covers Sarajevo, Bosnia, 19 Dec 2023 Copyright ASSOCIATED PRESS
Copyright ASSOCIATED PRESS
By Euronews with AP
Published on Updated
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Air quality in the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina is so bad some people are wearing masks.

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An intermittent toxic fog has descended on Sarajevo since December. 

Yet, on Wednesday IQAir put the Balkan city's air quality index (AQI) at 301, placing it firmly in the “very unhealthy” category. 

This put the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina as the world's most polluted city, followed closely by the Indian city of Kolkata.

IQAir, a Swiss monitor, collects data from governmental sources and air quality monitors to measure the quality of the air in their surveys.

The air quality problem in Bosnia and Herzegovina is not new. In 2020, the WHO stated the country was one of the most polluted countries in Europe, with air quality among the worst in the world.

The situation has further deteriorated since then, with emissions and pollution rising at 3% per year for the last decade. This is down to the proliferation of tall buildings that block airflow, the use of old and highly polluting vehicles, and an increased reliance on coal for heating in the city.

A woman wears a face mask shrouded by pollution haze as smog covers Sarajevo, Bosnia, Wednesday 20 Dec 2023
A woman wears a face mask shrouded by pollution haze as smog covers Sarajevo, Bosnia, Wednesday 20 Dec 2023ASSOCIATED PRESS

Local authorities have recently recognised air pollution as an acute problem and started taking steps to solve it, including by gradually improving public transport and increasing the number of energy-efficient buildings.

Sarajevo has been included among 100 cities targeted by the EU to help reach net-zero emissions by the end of the decade. 

Brussels is currently developing action and investment plans for climate neutrality across all sectors, including energy and transportation, through a process involving the private sector, citizens and research organisations.

High levels of air pollution plague other cities throughout Bosnia due to the country’s reliance on coal and wood for heating and coal for electricity generation.

According to the World Bank, an estimated 3,300 people in Bosnia die prematurely every year from exposure to air pollution, accounting for 9% of the total annual mortality. About 16% of this health burden is carried by Sarajevo and the northwestern city of Banja Luka.

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