Kosovo covers a total area of 10,908 km² and is therefore about half the size of Hesse. The country, which has a moderate continental climate, is demarcated from its neighboring countries in all directions by mountains up to 3,000 meters high. It has an impressive biodiversity, some of which is threatened by environmental problems.
According to COMPUTERANNALS, Kosovo suffers from significant environmental problems. They are the legacy of socialist modernization in the former Yugoslavia, which based on the extensive mineral resources was concentrated in heavy industry and coal-fired power generation. As a result of the 1990’s, the war and later the founding of the state, environmental policy took a late turn, while the environmental rehabilitation of large industrial plants lagged behind. The World Bank estimates the annual cost of pollution in Kosovo at around € 221 million.
Air, water and soil pollution and water scarcity are particularly problematic.
Air pollution is the most acute environmental problem in Kosovo. It focuses in particular on the winter months and the urban regions of Prishtina and Mitrovica, as well as the areas of Obiliq / Obilić, Gllogoc / Glogovac and Skënderaj / Srbica. Measurements by the air quality monitor of the US Embassy in Prishtina showed that at the end of January 2018 Prishtina was one of the most polluted cities in the world. For the first time, a driving ban was imposed for the inner city of Prishtina. The main sources of the poor air quality are the two coal-fired power plants – Kosovo A and B in Obiliq / Obilić, Kosovo’s only power plants built under socialism, which together are responsible for 90 percent of energy production and are among the biggest polluters in Europe. For years it has been planned to replace Unit A, which cannot be modernized, with a new power plant that would burn 40 percent less lignite and only emit 5 percent emissions from the old power plant. At the same time, Block B is to be equipped with environmental protection filters. The implementation is stock, however, there was neither the shutdown of Block A, originally planned for 2018, nor the start of construction of the new power plant. In 2018, the World Bank withdrew from the planned loan financing that was criticized by environmental organizations and instead called for a reorientation of energy production towards renewable energy sources, which the Kosovar government rejected as unrealistic for a small, economically weak country and with reference to energy security. In Kosovo in 2018, 10% of energy was obtained from renewable sources, air, sun and biomass. The original goal of increasing the proportion to 29% by 2030 has been corrected to 25% and, according to current estimates by the EU Commission, seems realistic.
Other causes of air pollution are: Other causes of air pollution are the widespread use of coal and wood stoves as a heat source in private homes, the growing volume of traffic and the exhaust gases from the large industrial plants in Trepça / Trepča and Ferronikeli.
Another problem is the contamination of waters with industrial metals by mines (particularly applies to the Mitrovica region due to the concentration of mining there, Trepça / Trepča), industrial companies, municipal waste dumps and the discharge of untreated sewage into rivers. The major rivers in Kosovo are classified as dirty. The supply of tap water and wastewater treatment is not guaranteed nationwide, only 78% of the total population have access to tap water and 56% are connected to the sewer system. In 2015, only 8 percent of urban wastewater was connected to sewage treatment plants that met international standards. The inefficient use of water and, above all, the steep rise in water consumption are responsible for the increasing scarcity of water.
Garbage disposal is also problematic. A comprehensive disposal system is currently being developed. Only around 40% of household waste is collected and the disposal of private waste in illegal landfills is widespread. Recycling is almost non-existent.
With regard to climate change, Kosovo is still at the beginning. In 2018, the government adopted a national strategy and corresponding action plan for the first time. There is a national coordinator for climate change and a council for the environment and climate change, which have so far remained largely inactive, while national legislation has not yet been adapted to climate policy.
In 2009, the Kosovar parliament passed an environmental protection law, which introduces environmental protection standards and a system for monitoring these standards. In 2012 the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning was established. Kosovo’s first environmental strategy for 2011-21 is waiting to be updated. In contrast, various strategies and action plans were adopted in 2018, including an emissions reduction plan, the national water strategy 2017-36 and the action plan for biodiversity 2016-20. The fundamental problem remains the implementation of all these policies, a shortage of staff and a lack of or even a lack of monitoring.
An environmental report 2017 by the Kosovar environmental authority shows the current developments in the field of environmental policy and environmental legislation.