Unprecedented Air Pollution Chokes Sarajevo

Smog engulfs downtown Sarajevo. Image: Eldar Emric

As the Washington Post reported, “authorities say air pollution in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo has reached dangerous levels in recent days, prompting officials to ban freight vehicles from the roads, cancel all outdoor public events and warn citizens to remain indoors.”

The air is virtually unbreathable which has led city officials to reduce coal-fueled central heating temperatures for buildings as well as ban dust-producing construction.

What’s Happening: Sarajevo is among the most polluted cities in the world, a status it’s long-held due to its natural characteristics: it’s situated in a deep valley and surrounded by high mountains.

But, as ABC News explained, the situation further deteriorated in the past decade due to the proliferation of tall buildings that block airflow, the use of old and highly polluting vehicles and the increased use of coal for heating in the city.

  • According to a recent report by the U.N. Environment Program, Sarajevo residents are exposed to some of the highest concentrations of air pollution in Europe.
  • The U.N. says that has reduced life expectancy in the country up to 1.3 years.

Why This Matters: For people exposed to unhealthy air, it’s the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes per day. Air pollution is a killer and the UN estimates that it claims an estimated 7 million people worldwide every year. Sarajevo is just one of many cities suffering from dangerous levels pollution. In Sydney air pollution is so bad it’s setting off fire alarms and in Delhi, Beijing, and Mexico City residents are struggling to cope.

Go Deeper: Air pollution is a big issue here as well, read the ranking of the 30 most polluted U.S. cities.

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