Several thousand people gathered in Belgrade for another environmental protest, a day after protesters blocked bridges and roads in several places in Serbia and clashed with riot police who deployed to them. Stop.
Sunday’s rally was called to protest the alarming levels of air pollution in Serbia produced by coal-fired power plants, the lack of adequate air filtering protection in mines and factories, old cars and bad fuel for domestic heating.
Protesters, carrying banners reading “The air is dangerous” and “You are suffocating us,” marched through downtown Belgrade, whistling and chanting anti-government slogans.
“We don’t have to measure the pollution, we can see it and feel it,” said Bojan Simisic, of Eko Straza, or Eco Guard, the environmental group behind the protest. “This is killing our children, I don’t want my children to be forced to flee the country because of the pollution.”
Serbia is one of the most polluted states in Europe, but public protests have only recently gained attention, with activists accusing populist authorities of allowing foreign investors, mostly Chinese, to do more harm to the country. environment of the Balkan nation.
Thousands of protesters on Saturday blocked a key traffic artery in Belgrade and other cities, angry at two laws they said would pave the way for such plans.
The hour-long blockade on Saturday led to skirmishes and organizers said a number of protesters were arrested. In the western town of Sabac, a video appeared on social media of unidentified thugs hitting protesters with batons.
Western Serbia has been at the center of the green movement due to an offer from excavation company Rio Tinto to open a lithium mine in the region. The company has said it will meet the highest ecological standards, but campaigners and experts insist the mine will destroy farmland, animal life and rivers.
Serbian autocratic President Aleksandar Vucic and his populist government have called the environmental protests political. They vowed to tackle Serbia’s huge environmental problems that have accumulated after decades of neglect, but stressed that they have no plans to stop coal mining anytime soon.
Vucic’s government is officially seeking entry into the European Union, but has instead forged close ties with Russia and China. A number of major Chinese investments, such as the purchase of a large copper and gold mine and the country’s only steel plant, have dramatically increased CO2 emissions in the country, environmentalists say.