Macedonia is a Balkan country with moderate continental climate, fertile lands, lush green mountains and nine rivers passing through its territory. This would be an ideal place for agriculture, but during these last two years the country faced extreme weather conditions like never before. Heavy rainfall caused many of the rivers to spill, flooding surrounding cities and villages, and wreak havoc on nearby farm land and crops.
Six month ago extreme stormy weather flooded 2500 hectares of farm land in the Pelagonia Region completely destroying crops and leaving behind a swamp of sewage water and so creating an ideal environment for infectious diseases and mosquitoes.
The last floods in the Macedonian city of Tetovo caused landslides and took four lives, two of them were small children. Landslides are not uncommon for Macedonia, according to the Map of Erosion of Macedonia, 96.5% of the total area is under erosion process and 3.5% of the total national territory is not affected by erosion . A report from the European Environment Agency puts Macedonia in the so called red zone of water erosion in Europe.
In recent years however, landslides have increased mainly because of mass deforestation at mountains and hills, due to illegal logging but also in the name of legal business interests. A large chunk of the forests at Vodno Mountain in the heart of Skopje was cut down to build luxury apartments, hotels and connecting roads. Then when the snow started melting earlier this year, landslides occurred and crushed the supporting walls of those apartments threatening people’s lives.
In 2011 when construction at Vodno took more and more forest floor, a local architect warned that Skopje is facing temperature inversion which will cause an increase in air pollution as the air is trapped. Five years later, construction continued and Skopje is now dubbed the most polluted city in Europe.
At the location of the last flash flooding in Tetovo, the worst damage was done in the small nearby village of Shipkovica, at the foot of Shar Mountain. The forest floor of the mountain has been cut in half due to illegal logging and big parts of Shar Mountain are now left completely naked. Tetovo is second on the list of cities with high air pollution in Macedonia.
And although deforestation is the obvious reason behind soil erosion and the mass landslides, it also opens up some other very important questions concerning how lowering the number of trees and greenery has affected the local climate and global warming in the bigger picture.
Scientists agree that forests and greenery create complex living and breathing ecosystems and form a pleasant microclimate for all life forms. And we all know greenery also cleans air pollution and cools down the temperature. But, as cities expand and forests decrease the temperatures are on a constant rise.
As many cities around the World are currently facing extremely high temperatures, and heat strokes cause more and more people to request medical assistance, we might have to agree that climate change is quite possibly the biggest threat to public health today.