14 innovative solutions for better air quality in Serbia presented

March 19, 2021

Belgrade, 19 March 2021 – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Serbia presented 14 most innovative ideas for reduction of air pollution and improvement of air quality in Serbia, received as response to the public call “Clean Air Innovation Challenge“, that UNDP launched in cooperation with UNICEF and World Health Organization (WHO). Among them, there are solutions for better air quality monitoring, air purifiers, improved fuel combustion, reduction of air pollution impact on children, as well as solutions for detecting air pollutants. All selected proposals have equally important impact on the quality od air we all breathe and are presented on the following platform: http://cleanairresponse.undp.org.rs/.

“Air pollution is a complex and multi-faceted challenge that requires a whole of society approach. A favourable legal framework and adequate funds for the implementation of measures are required for its solving, particularly at the local level.  Likewise, it is necessary to motivate local experts and innovators to find new solutions which will bring tangible benefits and have long-lasting impact on the improvement of air quality.  Therefore UNDP, in cooperation with WHO and UNICEF, is mobilising and bringing together development partners, donors, representatives of both national and local governments, academia and innovators from the private sector to curb of air pollution in Serbia”, stated Francine Pickup, UNDP Resident Representative in Serbia.

The approximate value of all 14 selected solutions for better air quality amounts to 1 million USD, and UNDP has supported one innovative solution - “The Information System for Stubble Burning Location Mapping” (http://cleanairresponse.undp.org.rs/geoportal/), designed by the team of Biosense Institute in Novi Sad.

Stubble brining after the harvest season, except for the fact that it destroys humus in the soil, also poses threats to the surrounding ecosystem, additionally pollutes the air and increases the CO2 emission. Using the innovative technological solutions and digital tools, the Biosense Institute team will detect stubble burning locations, thus contributing to the prevention of fires resulting as their consequence in the future. Data on stubble burning locations that are to be collected will be available to all Serbian citizens at thorough an online portal.  

“The Ministry I am heading, has already undertaken important steps with a view of improving air quality, and in order to make a progress in that field it is necessary to have joint action, above all, cross-sectoral cooperation at the national level, the involvement of every local government, economy, science and civil sector, and most importantly, society as a whole. If each of us contributes, the results will not be missed. I would like to thank our partners from UNDP, because by supporting the implementation innovative solutions for cleaner air, they have shown their readiness to contribute to solving the problem that has been present in Serbia for decades. It is important that in the future we have as many initiatives as this one, so that in the years ahead we can together raise awareness and solve the problem of air pollution as efficiently as possible, because that is extremely important for nature protection, all of us and future generations. " said Irena Vujović, Minister of Environmental Protection in the Government of the Republic of Serbia.

“According to the UN projections, 68% of the world's population will live in cities by 2050, and that is why it is important that cities implement adequate measures to protect the health of their inhabitants and protect the environment, because these areas are closely connected. According to the valid Development Strategy, sustainable development is one of the strategic determinations of the City of Belgrade”, emphasized the City of Belgrade Mayor, Zoran Radojičić.

He has stated that the biggest sources of pollution in Belgrade are individual households during the heating season, stubble burning after the autumn harvest, traffic throughout the year, thermal power plants and industry.

“I would like to inform you that the European Commission provides substantial support in the area of environment and climate change, which is a top priority in our pre-accession assistance. Recent projects included installing filters on the thermal power plants in Obrenovac, Morava and Kostolac to reduce emissions of pollutants, installing air quality measuring stations and providing expertise for climate action (development of climate law, climate strategy and action plan). I would like to congratulate Serbia for adopting the Climate Law yesterday, after a long process. In addition, this year, together with EU support, the Ministry of Environmental Protection will present to the public the “National Air Protection Programme” as a result of a 2-years analysis of the situation, modelling and data processing. Much work stay ahead for improving air quality, and rapid actions are still needed”, said Mateja Norčič Štamcar, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Serbia.

Exposure to air pollution has serious negative effects on health, length and quality of life. Official air quality measurements confirm that throughout Serbia, mostly in urban areas, pollution levels exceed the values of the WHO guidelines. Marijan Ivanuša, WHO Representative in Serbia pointed out that air pollution does not affect all citizens equally.

“The health consequences are greater for those whose health has already been impaired. Vulnerable groups, such as children, the elderly and citizens who have lower incomes and limited access to health care, are more susceptible to the harmful effects of air pollution,” Ivanuša has said.

“Air pollution is a crisis of equality, because it does not affect every individual equally. Children and families already at risk of poverty are more likely to be affected - children from poor families, from rural areas or children from minority groups often live in communities where biofuels or waste are burned for heating and cooking. UNICEF is committed to tackling air pollution and climate crisis challenges together with the Government of the Republic of Serbia and local authorities. One of the ways we do that is by raising awareness and empowering children to become initiators of change,” said  Dejana Kostadinova, UNICEF Representative in Serbia.

According to Institute of Public Health of Serbia “Milan Jovanović Batut” Report on Air Pollution in Serbia for 2019, the main emitters of pollutants in the country are the mining industry and the energy sector, as well as the transport and construction sectors. In addition, poor quality coal used for heating in individual households exacerbates this problem, as do unsanitary landfills.

Research indicates that reducing air pollution brings measurable health benefits. Improving air quality and reducing concentration of PM2.5 particles can directly reduce mortality and diseases caused by air pollution.

In addition to contributing to a healthier living environment, all 14 selected innovative proposals have the potential to stimulate local economic development, innovation and entrepreneurship. UNDP therefore invites all interested parties to join and help realize the best ideas so that together we can provide cleaner air in Serbia in the long run.

Vladimir Crnojević, Director of the Biosense Institute and Francine Pickup, UNDP Resident Representative in Serbia, photo: Beta

The utility company Dimničar from Belgrade, in partnership with the Institute of Physics, has designed smart detection of urban air pollution through the network of intelligent measuring stations that will provide reliable data on air quality at a lower price and with less conventional measurements. Thanks to software based on artificial intelligence, this network could predict concentrations of pollutants, even in places where there are no measuring stations.

The Belgrade Faculty of Mechanical Engineering proposes  a fast, reliable and economical air quality monitoring system, with a prognostic model of pollutant dispersion based on an artificial neural network. At the same time, the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering has an idea for improved fuel in the form of pellets  to directly reduce emissions from low power fire boxes by adding additives to biomass.

“Right to the City” proposes  to expand the network for monitoring air quality in Serbia, in order to make pollution data more accurate and accessible. This involves hiring volunteers and activists to set up 100 additional measuring stations at locations across the country, with a video guide to assemble them, and presenting the measurement results via the AirCare app.

The Institute of Physics in Belgrade, in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency, has an idea to develop and implement a new forecast model for warning of the presence of increased concentration of pollen in the air, based on computer algorithms that would predict pollen concentrations in the air.

The company “Mikro Kontrol” has an idea for a device with two sensors for monitoring the ambient and indoor air quality at the same micro-location. The device would allow users to improve indoor air quality by adapting the operation of air purification systems or ventilation and air conditioning systems.

Vucomm's idea is to create  local air quality sensor networks that will provide citizens with personalized information about their current exposure to pollutants, thus enabling them to make informed decisions regarding their health.

The company “Green Décor” has designed  an innovative system of modular green roofs  based on a module made of recycled plastic. Increasing the surface area of green roofs in urban environments would directly affect the reduction of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

The institute “Mihajlo Pupin” proposes the application of an energy-efficient system of street ventilation and filtration of air pollution,  which would be powered by vehicles in traffic, while the Institute of Nuclear Science “Vinča” has designed an autonomous purifier of smoke products for individual combustion furnaces.

The idea of the Faculty of Sciences and Mathematics in Novi Sad is a biological plant for removing particle pollution from the air by using the natural ability of cyanobacteria to bind harmful particles from the air.

Belgrade's “Emo Tehnika” proposes a software and hardware solution for burner controllers, in order to improve combustion efficiency and reduce emissions of gases from individual fire boxes, and the product would be compatible with all domestic and foreign devices.

The Internet Society of Serbia is proposing an educational project on raising the awareness of children, parents and teachers about air pollution and its harmful effects, through the installation of the “Klimerko” device in schools, which would give students the opportunity to get acquainted with the ways in which air pollution is measured.