Is air pollution actually a problem in Bosnia?

In the international news air pollution crops up as one of Bosnia’s main concerns. Many of the articles focus on particular cities and particular factories not complying with environmental laws.  In this post I hope to try to understand what is happening.

In both a Guardian and Modern Diplomacy pieces they emphasize that single source pollutants such as a steel mill and a coal power station in different cities are pumping considerable amounts of pollution into the atmosphere.  They mention that these pollutants cause major health problems for the country.  Balkan Insight in their article about this matter interviews Enis Omercic, an air-quality expert for the FHMZBiH saying “Sarajevo is definitely one of the most polluted cities in Europe when it comes to air pollution.”  The Balkan Insight article also mentions that more people are turning to dirtier methods of heating homes such as coal that also cause further pollution.  In response to the constant smog and their constituents increasingly turning up with respiratory diseases officials have turned a blind eye and begun planning for more coal power stations and further heavily polluting industries.

Regional Perspective


The CO2 emissions of Balkan countries are detailed in the chart above.  Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Romania far exceed the CO2 emissions of other smaller countries. Bosnia post conflict has year over year increased its emissions exceeding those of its smaller neighbors.  Other countries including the larger ones stabilized or decreased their emissions with more stringent environmental regulations, cleaner cars, reductions in coal power plants, and other measures.

Agricultural Emissions



An increase in agricultural emissions has slowly increased as farm production has increased and switched to more industrial methods using chemical fertilizers and pesticide usage. Enteric Fermentation is the methane emissions from cows and other grazing animals.  Just like in the U.S. livestock emissions accounts for one of the largest pollutants of methane into the atmosphere for both countries.  Livestock has increased in recent years as pig and cattle have increased in counts.


Emissions by Motor Vehicles

In a report by Dr Mirsad Kulovic, Bosnian car ownership was 92 cars per 1,000 inhabitants before the war.  In 2010 this ownership had increased to 214 per 1,000 inhabitants.  This level of car ownership is low compared with Western European countries that have car ownership usually in the 500 range but some as high as 795 per 1,000 inhabitants in the United States.


While Bosnia is not represented on this table, this graph is significant in that it shows that older cars produce a higher rate of emissions.  The cars in Bosnia are on average at least 10 year old, imported from Western European countries.  These cars pollute far more than newer cars.  Each car in Bosnia pollutes almost at twice as much as newer cars.




Looking at the cancer rates for Bosnia, lung cancer occurs very frequently amongst its population.  Smoking and air pollution could cause such high incidences.



Looking at other countries the frequency of lung cancer is more frequent than most Western European countries.  The incidence of lung cancer is lower than that of surrounding Balkan countries.  Air pollution as seen in the charts beforehand has just become a problem so lung cancer incidents may still have yet to be seen in 2012 data.


Air pollution is increasing at high rates in Bosnia.  The increasing air pollution is because of a combination of increases in emissions from multiple sources including industrial pollution, pollution from coal home heating, car emissions from decade old imported cars, more methane producing farm animals.  This will lead to higher rates and incidences of lung diseases such as lung cancer in the future decades.  Some of the air pollution sources such as car emissions will gradually decrease over time as imported western cars will become less polluting however industrial pollution and home heating pollution will still remain a problem unless major steps are put into place to curb the usage of such high pollutants.

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