There used to be an expression uttered usually after taking a deep breath, and it went something like, “Ahh, a fresh breath of morning air!” That expression may still exist, but to use it in Kosovo would be inaccurate. For decades pollution caused by largely unregulated industrialization has, according to numerous reports and studies, been having a serious environmental impact.
To describe how serious this situation has become, the primary focus of United Nations agencies operating in Kosovo for the next five years will be the environment and health related to environment pollution.
Fumihiko Tominaga, a program analyst for environment changes within the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) told K2.0 that pollution is taking its toll on the health of Kosovo’s citizens.
“The average life expectancy here is 10 years shorter than the EU average,” says Tominaga. “So air pollution is affecting people’s health. Maybe slowly but it is worsening the condition and that is reflected in life expectancy.”
In order to raise public awareness about the environment and health in Kosovo, on Nov. 17 the UNDP and UN Kosovo Team launched an online campaign called #EcoKosovo. The focal point of the campaign is a photography competition, where any Kosovo resident can submit photographs related to health and the environment from their local areas.
Photos need to be published on entrants’ personal Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts, with the hashtag #ecokosovo, the location at which the picture was taken and a brief caption describing the relevance of the image and how it reflects health issues related to the environment. The deadline for submissions is Dec. 6, with three winners each receiving the latest GoPro camera.
Tominaga said that there are no specific requirements on resolution, with entrants able to use phones, smart phones or professional cameras. “It doesn’t really matter as long as you convey your message and what kind of reflection you have in terms of environment and health,” he said, emphasizing that the aim is to motivate people to express their feelings regarding health issues related to the environment.
“It will also give us a good picture of what people’s concerns are,” said Tominaga. “Later we could use these photos to show that people in Kosovo think that these are the concerns that they have, or environmental challenges that they have, and these challenges may have health implications.”
Tominaga emphasized that environmental pollution is not only important now, but that the campaign to raise awareness will also be important in years to come. “It’s a really pressing matter,” he said. “We need to have some sort of interventions in this area.”
The UNDP campaign is backed by UN volunteers and the World Health Organization, while Trembelat, a local collective of designers, programmers and activists, is helping with the practical implementation.
For Nita Zeqiri a program developer within Trembelat, the campaign is an important one as it is a cause in which the collective believes in. “Considering that we have a large network of people, we thought that we could spread it to a lot of people,” Zeqiri told K2.0.
So far, according to Trembelat, there have been around 400 pictures posted. Zeqiri said that the pictures range from natural beauties and hiking activities to air pollution, ground pollution and garbage.
While the campaign is running, Trembelat are publishing information on their social media pages with facts and data related to the environment. “We wanted to inform the citizens about different matters, such as the condition of the water, air and earth,” she said.
All this, says Zeqiri, is to provide information about Kosovo’s environment and natural resources which need protection and caring for and to encourage people to wake up and take action.K