One of the sessions of the third seminar was digital campaigning – the task of the participants was to mobilise the Youth to join the climate strike. They were given the following case and asked to come up with visuals or memes to attract the youth:
Tuzla is Bosnia and Herzegovina’s largest coal power station. Lignite, the dirtiest form of coal, is heated to several hundred degrees Celsius as it roars into action. The heat and steam produced turns a generator to produce electricity. At the same time, the plant releases 51,000 tonnes of toxic sulphur dioxide and other pollutants into the air each year, just across the road from a primary school in the town of Divkovići. In Bosnia and Herzegovina as a whole, 44,000 years of life are lost each year due to particulate matter or nitrogen dioxide – such as that produced in Tuzla – or ozone pollution.
Filters are used on Tuzla coal plant’s towers. Yet once expired, these are disposed of at the disposal site together with the putrid pollution they collect. Winds can therefore pick up and scatter ash pollution onto nearby homes in Divkovići – whose centre is just 1.5 kilometres away.
People in Tuzla have already been protesting against air pollution, feeling that their city is one of the most polluted in the world. The data shows how serious the problem is and how authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, who are failing to even do proper monitoring of smog levels, are directly responsible for hundreds of deaths and thousands of cases of illness.
The number of deaths and health conditions could be reduced if air pollution in Tuzla improved. But instead of focusing on meaningful reduction of air pollution in Tuzla, the government is currently planning to add a new 450 MW coal-fired unit to the local lignite power plant (built in the 1960s and 1970s), which is already a major source of pollution in Tuzla, with its adjacent open-cast mines and ash disposal site.
One of the most shocking aspects is that authorities are presenting the construction of a new coal unit in Tuzla as part of the solution. But the new coal unit would add to the total installed capacity at the existing plant and come with another polluting ash pond, which would only increase air pollution when dry.
The Tuzla air pollution crisis needs an immediate response from decision-makers. What is needed is a plan how to phase out the Tuzla coal plant with interim measures to reduce coal pollution, but also upgrading the air monitoring network to identify the true magnitude of the health impacts.