A New Chernobyl in the Balkans

By Natasha Dokovska

SKOPJE, Macedonia, April 13, 1999 (ENS) - Macedonian environmentalists are reacting with horror against the bombing in Yugoslavia, particularly after reports from Greek researcher, Professor Zeferos who said that bombing in Yugoslavia is a great environmental catastrophe for the entire Balkan region. The Macedonian environmental movement is asking the Macedonian government to react against the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and help the whole world.

Professor Zeferos, an environmental chemist from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, says that the first three days of bombing above Yugoslavia released a large amount of hazardous, toxic, carcinogenic and radioactive substances.

The biggest fear of possible bombing of power plants by NATO forces, because the public's risk of inhaling highly contaminated air would then be very high.

Skopje

Aerial view of Skopje (Photo (c) N. Dokovska)
The chief inspector of the Macedonian Ministry of Environment, Miroslav Balaburski, said that furans and dioxins which are released at the time of the bomb explosions are being carried for long distances across the planet.

Balaburski said that in this process is very often immersion in hazardous substances which endangers public health.

Some of these substances released by the bombing deplete the ozone layer, which may widen the ozone hole in the future, Balaburski warned.

He said that now the Ministry of Environment does not know which radioactive substances we have in the atmosphere. If anyone knows that, he said, then this information should not be kept as a military secret.

From the Center for Radioisotopes, a Macedonian government institution based in Skopje, Zoran Bozinovski said that pollution released by the bombing over Yugoslavia is entering Macedonia by air and by the river Lepenec which crosses the border between Macedonia and Yugoslavia.

A chemist from the Center, Ivan Grozdanov, said that when aircraft fuel burns it releases nitrous oxide, which damages the ozone layer with dangerous results for human health.

The Montreal Protocol, the international treaty governing ozone-depleting substances says, "Nitrous oxide is the primary source of stratospheric NOx (Nitrogen oxides), which play a vital role in controlling the abundance of stratospheric ozone."

Inspector Balaburski said that of 210 dioxins and furans he knows of, 17 of them are extremely toxic and break down very slowly. Contact with these toxic substances, according World Health Organisation, produces nervous system disorders, cancers of the respiratory organs, hepatitis, and fetal deaths, depending on the doses.

The Macedonian Minister of Environment, Sokol Klincarov, said he will bring these problems up at the next meeting of SECI, part of the Central European Initiative. He said he believes that kind of discussion could palliate the causes of this pollution.

In November 1989 in Budapest, the deputy prime ministers of Austria, Hungary, Italy, and Yugoslavia established an Initiative for cooperation. The Initiative has now grown to include: the Czech and Slovak Republics, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Albania, Belarus, Moldova, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and Ukraine.

The CEI Secretariat is located in Trieste, Italy. Because members of the CEI come from both NATO and non-NATO countries, it might prove to be an arena for bringing about understanding and cooperation.

But, Macedonian environmentalists ask how. They fear the radioactivity on the scale of that released by the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Ukraine 13 years ago and still felt across Eastern and Central Europe.