The Russian embassy in Skopje has suggested the Turkish Stream pipeline as a solution to the extreme air pollution in Macedonia, a problem which the country, particularly the capital, has faced for several years now.
This came as a response to a tweet on December 14 from the US embassy in Skopje saying “AirPollution in Skopje was so thick today you could hardly see the embassy! What ideas do you have for cleaner air in #Macedonia?”
The pollution in the capital was very high especially on December 14 -15, but the air cleared over the weekend due to the moderate winds and rains.
Turkish Stream replaces South Stream, a pipeline that was due to run to Central Europe via the Black Sea and Bulgaria but was scrapped in December 2014 after EU pressure because of Russia's annexation of Crimea that March.
Turkish Stream is expected to be constructed under the Black Sea, bypassing Ukraine, with one line aimed at supplying Russian gas to Turkey and the second line planned for the transit of gas from Russia to the EU. The complete route of the second line has not yet been finalised, but it will run from southern Russia's Krasnodar region across the Black Sea to Kiyikoy on the Turkey’s Thrace coast.
When completed, the Turkish Stream is expected to continue through Greece, Macedonia and Serbia to Eastern European countries.
Pollution in Skopje was at a record high on December 15, with the cancer causing PM 10 particles 12 times higher than recommended, which made the city among the most polluted in the world.
Some flights from Skopje airport were also cancelled or diverted on Friday due to the heavy smog.
On December 15, the government proposed several measures against pollution, such as reducing car traffic, offering free public transport and washing the streets. Long-term measures will include gasification of homes.
Pollution levels, particularly in Skopje, which is located at the bottom of a valley, have been alarming for several years now, but the authorities have failed to take appropriate measures to solve the problem so far.
Numerous citizens were seen wearing masks on the streets of Skopje in recent days to protect themselves from the pollution. Local media reported that pharmacies sold all their stocks. However, due to the persistent problem, citizens were offered several types of protective masks by various sellers over the internet.
Many citizens on social networks compalined that the situation is frightening while others proposed solutions to the problem, such as reducing traffic and introducing electric cars.
A study conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) shows that households which use wood or even plastic for heating accounted for one third of the overall pollution, followed by the transport sector, industry and construction.
According to the health authorities 30%-35% of death cases during the winter in Skopje in the last few years were attributed to pollution
A group of citizens led by enviromentalists staged a protest in front of the government building in Skopje on December 16 asking for urgent measures to be taken to curb the pollution. They threatened not to send their children to school on December 20 if the problem with the pollution persists.
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