All we want is some clean air

iwanttobreathe5Some weeks ago was the very first time I saw an image of a small child wearing an inhaler on a street. The boy was attending a protest with his mother, they were protesting against a steel production factory in Skopje that is polluting their neighborhood and the entire city. I was deeply disturbed by that image, it is still haunting me and I cannot understand how anyone can look at that image, realize that he is responsible for what happened to that small boy and still be able to sleep at night!?

The  name of that factory is “Makstil” and the problem is that they are constantly delaying the deadline to put the necessary filters to the factory chimneys. The Macedonian government gave all the polluting industries a deadline to implement the necessary measures, the deadline was the end of 2013. Then for some reason the deadline got extended  to April 1st 2014, and after that deadline, Makstil asked for another postponement and they got it- October 30th 2014.

And while the deadline is being extended, the factory is working over time and the fumes coming out of their chimneys are making people from surrounding neighborhoods sick. You see, the factory is located between two very busy neighborhoods in Skopje- Avtokomanda and Zelezara. The people that live in these neighborhoods are saying that life has become unbearable, clothes on the balcony left to dry are covered with red dust by morning, and when the factory chimneys are working the air is so bad, that they bring their children inside because they are afraid for their health. Can you imagine a childhood spent in an apartment building???

It’s not just the those two neighborhoods being affected, the fumes are getting to the nearby Novo Lisice and Lisice, both young neighborhoods full of small children and teenagers. But the pollution doesn’t stop there for sure. This winter Skopje had a major air pollution problem with PM10 particles reaching high into 1000 mg/m3- extremely dangerous levels. And although this factory is not the only one to blame, it certainly had it’s contribution.

Helpless to deal with the polluted air becoming only worse from day to day, people came out on the streets to protest and ask for the factory to shut down until the proper filters are installed. It was about the time the protests began that the factory announced that they have some technical issues in the factory and will stop working until it’s fixed. But, then the next day photos from smoking chimneys appeared from citizen living very near the factory…

zelezara1Since that day people are protesting and blocking the main street infront of the factory- every single day! Nothing changed so far except for the air being more polluted. What I cannot understand is how can someone call themselves human, look into those children’s eyes and the faces of their very worried parents and keep on doing business as always. There is a very real chance that all of us might end up with some kind of a lung problem – some will suffer more, some less, but we will all end up suffering.

And we are not alone on this Planet you know? One small polluting country may have a huge impact on the bigger picture called climate change. But hey, I guess all is well if there is money. And while we are getting rich we can enjoy the photos drawn by the children that live in the factory’s backyard…

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