They want the European Union and the Serbian government to protect human rights and the environment.
Kostolac power plant makes a sizeable contribution to Europe’s greenhouse gasses, as well as to Serbia’s already sky high air pollution which also affects neighboring EU member state Romania.
More than 2,000 people live on the edge of the mine in the villages of Klicevac and Drmno, surrounded by fertile land on the banks of the Danube just 80 km east of Belgrade.
“Agriculture is a very intensive and important part of the life of these people. They are relying on that food … they are also marketing it to Belgrade,“ says Zvezdan Kalmar from Serbia’s Center for Ecology and Sustainable Development (CEKOR).
But dust from the mine is making life increasingly precarious for many, as documented by FIAN International and CEKOR in a new briefing to EU institututions.
“It is very dangerous … consisting of pollutants, of heavy metals. This dust is directly attacking agricultural production … reducing up to 30 percent the yield from agricultural production,“ adds Kalmar.
“The mine is destroying not only their livelihoods but also their properties … We expect that in few years time this whole part of the village will actually sink. “
Although peoples‘ houses are crumbling, their basements are flooded by groundwater displaced by the mine and a pungent smell of suplhur hangs over the area, neither local authorities nor Elektroprivreda Srbije have agreed to resettle or compensate villagers.
Dragana, a former farmer from Drmno village, is preparing a legal case with support from CEKOR.
“We can no longer make a living. Our houses are dilapidated. We want to be resettled, “ she says.
“I want my children and grandchildren to live a normal live. We breath dust here … from the open cast mine … and smoke,“ she adds gesturing towards the mine, slag heaps of toxic silicon dust, and the towering power plant chimneys which encircle the village.
Dragana suffers from several health problems, which she attributes to the poor air quality in the village. Her husband was recently admitted to hospital with acute respiratory problems.
Diseases on fruit trees
In nearby Klicevac village, Novica Milenkovic says that the mine has devestated his farm. He continues to grow flowers in heated greenhouses for sale in Belgrade, but most of his crops have failed.
“There are diseases on fruit trees that were not there before. Pears, apples, all became ... scabby ... Hazelnuts also will not grow. You gather from a hundred trees, you find ten healthy … there are peaches, we could only eat a few. The others were all rotten,“ he explains.
“Wind is blowing from the power plant. And it brings smog and ... the smell of coal, sulphur … It would be best if they move us out of here ... if nothing else. “
Resettlement and compensation
Drmno mine and Kostolac power plant, run by Elektroprivreda Srbije, could not expand without massive Chinese-backed investments, without credible environmental impact assessments and despite China’s committment to cease funding coal power
CEKOR argues that the situation facing people living around Dmrno mine and Kostolac power plant amounts to ecocide and a serious violation of their human rights which Serbia and the European Union must urgently address.
“Most people living next to the mine are demanding resettlement and to get arable lands … to receive real compensation, to live somewhere else, to save their children, their lives and their health from the impossible living conditions,“ says Zvezdan Kalmar.
FIAN International joins CEKOR and the communities in demanding urgent action from the Serbian government and the EU.
Serbia, an EU candidate country must fully respect its national and international environmental and human rights obligations. The EU must do more to address the coal-related challenges faced by the country, and to implement the European Union Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, not least by making any future EU funding conditional on the Serbian government demonstrating respect for environmental and human rights.
Read the briefing here.
For more information or media interviews please contact Tom Sullivan, FIAN International Communication & Campaigns: firstname.lastname@example.org / Tel +90 534 230 0346/ WhatsApp: +46 73 046 2753