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Constructing a new coal power plant in Serbia means putting the health and lives of thousands of people on the line

This week, Serbia reiterated its announcement to construct the Kostolac B3 coal power plant - a 350 megawatt close to the Romanian border which will primarily use the lignite form of coal.

The total worth of the project is 610 million EUR of which the Serbian Government committed to provide 20% while the rest would be provided by the Export-Import Bank of China with a 20 year loan.

Ultimately, this announcement means the people of Serbia will, through their taxes, fund a project that will gravely impact their health as well as create uncontrollable additional economic and health costs. One of the world’s most authoritative medical journals, the Lancet [1], recommends that all countries phase out of the most polluting form of fossil fuel, coal.

Fumes from coal power plants contribute to air pollution and are associated with unnecessary high rates of premature death, chronic lung diseases, heart conditions and asthma. Lignite - the form of coal primarily to be used in Kostolac B3 - is the dirtiest form of coal power. According to HEAL calculations, 1,269 people would die a premature death due to pollution from Kostolac B3 during its lifetime, assuming it will run for 45 years. That equals direct additional health costs between 462 million and 1.33 billion EUR. On top of that, every additional year Kostolac B3 would run would lead to 28 premature deaths with an additional societal cost of 10-29 million EUR.

All of this is not even taking into account the contribution Kostolac B3 would make to climate change and the health impacts and costs associated with that.

“The data shows huge damage to health associated with the planned Kostolac B3 plant” says Vlatka Matkovic Puljic, Health and Energy Officer, Balkans Region, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL). “We hoped that our previous findings on health impacts and costs caused by coal power would encourage the Serbian government to reconsider their investment. Unfortunately, it looks like they are closing their eyes to the toll coal power is taking on their citizens health. What is needed instead is responsible investment in clean, healthy and renewable energy that benefits the Serbian people in the long run.”

Link to Technical report: The Health Impacts of coal-fired power stations in the Western Balkans and in Serbian.

Notes to editors:

[1] The renowned medical journal The Lancet says in its recent report on Pollution and Health that "Coal is the world’s most polluting fossil fuel, and coal combustion is an important cause of both pollution and climate change." The 2017 Lancet report entitled "The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: from 25 years of inaction to a global transformation for public health" sets out phasing-out coal-fired power as its third Recommendation.

Originally posted on 21 November 2017

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