Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning Ministria e Ambientit dhe Planifikimit Hapësinor Ministarstvo Sredine i Prostornog Planiranja




Environmental pollution impact in the health of the citizens of Kosovo

Environmental factors can causes and increase several health problems in a population. In Kosovo, the following factors are included: drinking water and sanitation, waste issues, dust and heavy metals, other types of pollution produced by industries and heavy traffic.


Forty – four percent of the total population has access o the water distribution system, while for the rural population this figure is only 8.4%. Other problems are the facts that not enough chlorine is used to disinfect the water and that none of the drinking water sources is protect. Health risks related to drinking water contamination include all waterborne bacteriological diseases, especially diarrhea.


Kosovo does not have any wastewater treatment system. Only 28% of population, mainly in urban areas has access to sewage system. For the rural population, drinking water from the wells is contaminated by wastewater in many cases, having as consequence a high incidence of gastrointestinal tract infectious diseases.


The many problems with urban waste collection, the non – existence of rural waste collection and the lack of sanitary landfills add to the potential health risks, especially for children playing outdoors. Hospital and health houses wastes ending up in regular containers on the streets could, potentially, infect people (1).


Two of the most important pollution sources in Kosovo are located within or close to the city of Mitrovica and in the region of Obiliq/Obilic – Prishtine. Mitrovica is the site of one of the largest lead mining, smelting, refining and battery plant complex in Europe. This poses a serious health risk due to the environmental pollution caused by lead, cadmium, zinc, copper, and toxic gases (sulfur dioxide, sulfur trioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, etc) (3).


Prishtina/Pristina is a very dusty city. In other towns the dust pollution might be less because they are smaller, have less heavy traffic and/or have more green areas and/or a river absorbing the dust. Since there is no possibility of cleaning streets regularly the accumulated dust keeps being moved into the air when vehicles pass or the wind blows.


Two big thermal power plants are situated close to the surface lignite deposit in Obiliq/Obilic. Both of them suffer mainly from lack of maintenance. The Western -  designed Kosovo B (6 MW) has filters that are working with a removal capacity of 98%. The filters from the Russian – designed Kosovo A are operating at a considerable reduced capacity, with removal rates between 50 – 80%. One of he 200 MW units is emitting about 25 tones of dust and ash per hour, which results in an excess of the European standards for the dust pollution of 74 times.

Among the air emission from the power plants are CO2, SO2, NOx and dust, but the emission levels are currently not measured. Information available from 1988 shows the following emissions: SO2: 47,300 ton/year, dust: 78,600 ton/year. Since currently the power plants are working at much lower capacity than at that time, the emissions of SO2 and NOx are equally lower. Dust emissions may exceed those values due to the badly functioning filters at Kosovo A (1,3). All of these emissions lead to a higher risk foe upper and lower respiratory tract diseases including infections and allergies (7).

Figure 25: Environmental Related diseases in Kosovo








Number of cases

50 +


5 - 49






50 + years






5 - 49  years






<5 years









Acute diarea 


from colon





Infant Mortality is the best health indicator of country. It tells about deaths of children younger than 1 year, per 1000  born alive in one year. There is no registration of mortality at the moment, before the war, in 1996, Infant Mortality for Kosovo was 18.9. Infant Mortality for the same period, for other European countries was as follows: Bosnia – Herzegovina, 18.4; the Russian Federation, 17.5; Bulgaria, 16.3; Hungary, 10.7; Croatia, 9; Greece, 8.2; Czech Republic, 6.1; Slovenia, 4.8. Only Romania was worse than Kosovo, having an IM of 22.3.

Infectious diseases cause 63% of all childhood deaths and 48% of premature deaths. The incidence of many infectious diseases is still high in Kosovo (see fig. 1). The situation between the years 2000 and 2001 does not seem to have changed too much. The most frequent diseases in all the municipalities were Upper and Lower Respiratory Tract Infections (674.9 cases/100 000), Diarrhea (645.8 cases/100 000) and Intestinal Parasitic Infections (104.2/100 000), and Scabies (206.2/100 000). These are all related to environmental factors. The best example is Obiliq/Obilic. This municipality reported the highest incidence of Lower Respiratory Tract Infections (449.60 ases/100 000/week), Acute Diarrhea (255.12 cases/100 000/week), and Intestinal Parasitic Infections and Scabies (51.82 cases/100 000/week). The first one is likely to be related to the air pollution produced by the power plant. The second and the third categories strongly suggest problems related to drinking water and sanitation. The fourth category indicated poor personal hygiene and living conditions.

Occupational factors also affect health. Workers of Obiliq/Obilic present the highest umber of cases of Respiratory Diseases. Workers attended in Djakova/Djakovica Institute of Occupational Health during the last10 years had had occupational diseases and work – related to the textile industry, agriculture, etc.

With respect to traffic safety, there is still a high number of injury traffic accidents and fatalities in Kosovo involving youths. In big cities like Prishtina/Pristina, with heavy traffic, fatalities are more common. Traffic safety is clearly being compromised and injuries and deaths are occurring that could be avoided. There is an urgent need to develop a road accident reduction strategy, including educating the population of Kosovo, especially youths, on road safety.

It is not necessary but extremely important, to improve and keep control on environmental factors in all the municipalities, in order to reduce their negative impact on human health.

There is an urgent need to establish a registration of Non - Communicable diseases, as well as Occupational Health diseases all over Kosovo. 

Reference: Sandra Molano, Health and Environment 2002, UNMIK, Prishtina/Pristina