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Regional News

A new benchmark for clean energy in Sarajevo

New data shows that six ‘smart’ LED benches installed by a joint UN collaboration at the 2015 edition of the Sarajevo Film Festival have born fruit in style.

Over the past year, 87.84 kilowatt-hours (kWh)of energy was produced by the benches’ solar panels, including 65.14 kWh used to recharge mobile phones 17,520 times for a C02 emission saving of 44kg, it emerged during the festival’s Enviro Day on Wednesday.  

The multifunctional seats were installed at the 2015 edition of Enviro Day by the United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations Development Programmes in the Bosnian capital and make the country only the second in the world to benefit from this type of technology.

Together with classmates, 20-year-old Croatian Ivan Mrvoš built the ‘solar e-bench,’ which allow users to recharge mobile phones, create a wifi hotspot area and use a streetlight. The LED panels furthermore power air sensors, allowing users to access information on air pollution levels in that area. The feature is in line with the topic of this year’s Enviro Day - the fight for clean air.

“This installation, however small scale it may look, is a symbol showing that when you bring innovation into practice on the ground, the people like it and use it, while being reminded of the importance of cleaner air” said Jan Dusik, UNEP's Director for Europe.

During 2015, safe levels of particulate matter (PM10) in Sarajevo were exceeded for a total of 100 days, while nitrogen oxide (NOx) levels were unsafe for 18 days, Enis Omerčić of the Hydrometeorlogical institute of Bosnia and Herzegovina revealed during a panel discussion held as part of Enviro Day this week. Air quality in the capital furthermore breached safe levels of sulphur dioxide (SO2) during five days last year. Meanwhile, the number of people suffering from chronical respiratory diseases has steadily increased in Bosnia and Herzegovina and now reached 176 cases for every 10,000 people, said Mirza Palo of the World Health Organisation.

In response to the issue, earlier in 2016 UNEP opened two new air quality monitoring stations in Gorazde and Prijedor and renovated two others in Ivan Sedlo and Banja Luka. The stations provide access to data in real-time to the general public and decision-makers in order to assess the threat and gauge policy successes.

UNEP is also leading a drive to renovate district heating systems– one of the largest producers of C02 emissions in the country - in Sarajevo and Banja Luka, as part of a major fuel and cost saving drive. The renovation could potentially reduce up to 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year in Banja Luka alone.

Installation of the solar benches, which are made by the Steora company based in Croatia, was made possible thanks to funding provided by Sweden to UNDP.

For more information on this week’s Enviro Day at the Sarajevo Film Festival and UNEP’s work in Bosnia and Herzegovina please click here or write to

The solar e-benches allow users to access the latest air quality readings for that area while recharging body and phone

Clean air takes centre stage at Sarajevo Film Festival

The second annual Enviro Day held today sees the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Sarajevo Film Festival join forces to raise awareness of the importance of clean air in Bosnia and Herzegovina – home to some of Europe's most polluted cities.

Poor air quality is responsible for 44,000 years of life being lost in Bosnia and Herzegovina every year, according to the European Environment Agency. It costs the country $7,228 million, or 21.5 per cent of national GDP annually, says the World Health Organization (WHO).

"Air pollution is an invisible killer and a hidden limiting factor to the GDP growth of Bosnia and Herzegovina," said UNEP Regional Director for Europe Jan Dusik.

"Yet solutions stemming from district heating, public transport systems and energy efficiency in general are easily available and can boost the local economy while improving the quality of life of Bosnians. This partnership with the Sarajevo Film Festival is vital in spreading this message among the general public and local population," he said.

The Enviro Day held at the Sarajevo Film Festival will see experts from UNEP,WHO and the Federal Hydrometeorological Institute present the latest scientific knowledge on Sarajevo's air quality and on ways to improve it.

Experts will also perform a live demonstration of instruments used to monitor pollution in the city's air. Finally, Cantonal Prime Minister Elmedin Konakovic will attend a photo exhibition on efforts to measure air pollution throughout history, organized by the European Union Delegation.

Earlier in 2016, UNEP opened two new air quality monitoring stations in Bosnia and renovated two others. The two new facilities are located in the cities of Gorazde – where the safe threshold for solid particles has been exceeded 19 times since 8 December 2015 - and Prijedor. The two renovated stations are in Ivan Sedlo and Banja Luka.

As a result, accurate data is available in real-time to monitor climate change and announce pollution alerts to the general public, as well as to measure the impact of policy measures to improve air quality.

The latest data from the stations shows that air quality is currently at safe overall levels, yet last winter – when pollution levels are seasonally higher – WHO pointed to the Bosnian cities of Zenica, Banja Luka, Sarajevo and Tuzla as one of the most polluted in Europe.

Two cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina have meanwhile joined the UNEP-led Global District Energy in Cities Initiative. Banja Luka and Sarajevo form part of the programme, which supports national and municipal governments in their efforts to develop, retrofit or scale up district energy systems - one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A project launched by Banja Luka with UNEP in January will modernize the city’s heating network and could reduce fuel consumption by 27 per cent, leading to a reduction of 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year and €4.5m in fuel cost savings.

The installation of ‘smart’ solar benches in Sarajevo by UNEP and the United Nations Development Programme at last year’s edition of the film festival is meanwhile already bearing fruits. The six benches – sponsored by the Swedish Embassy - have since used solar energy to charge mobile phones 17,520 times, equivalent to saving 44kg of carbon dioxide emissions.

The main culprits behind Bosnia's air pollution are emissions from traffic, household stoves and local heating using heavy fuel oil, and high-intensity energy used to power industry.

Last December, heavy smog caused schools in the country’s capital to close early for the winter break. Air pollution has since been identified as one of the two greatest health threats in the pan-European region together with climate change by UNEP’s sixth Global Environment Outlook report.

Note to editors


The Sarajevo Film Festival is one of Europe's biggest. The theme for this year’s Enviro Day – organized by the festival and UNEP for the second consecutive year – is ‘U Zdravom Tijelu Zdrav Vazduh,’ or ‘Clean air for a healthy body’.

See full programme

Over 44,000 years of life are lost in Bosnia and Herzegovina each year due to particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide or ozone pollution, states European Environment Agency data. View the latest data from air quality monitoring stations opened by UNEP here.

The sixth Global Environment Outlook report for the pan-European region, issued in June 2015, found that outdoor and indoor air pollution are among the two greatest health threats for the region, and analyses policies undertaken to address them.  

UNEP has acted to improve air quality in Bosnia following Resolution 7 of the first United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-1), which mandated it to support governments through capacity building, data provision and assessments of progress.  

For more information, please contact:

Isabelle Valentiny, Head of Communications, Regional Office for Europe, (+41) 79 251 82 36,

'Caspian Day' marked by entry into force of landmark protocol

Countries are equipping themselves to fight oil spills together in world’s largest inland body of water

Geneva, Switzerland 11 August 2016 – Ahead of Caspian Day, littoral states are gathering to mark the first entry into force of a legally-binding Protocol under the Tehran Convention, enabling them to prepare for, react to and cooperate on oil spills together.

A meeting of all five Caspian countries is being held today and tomorrow in Aktau, Kazakhstan - the city the Protocol was signed in – to review plans for it to take effect and explore ways of enhancing stakeholder participation in the Convention. The meeting is being attended by a wide range of participants, including representatives from the oil sector.

“For over a century the Caspian Sea has been associated with its oil industry.” This has created “a legacy of heavy environmental contamination,” UNEP Regional Director Jan Dusik reminded in a video message at the event.  

“Yet today’s oil industry is different, and has adopted a responsible approach to gaining economic benefits hand-in-hand with preserving the environment,” he noted. “We hope that every actor in the oil extraction and transportation industry in the region will claim ownership of this Protocol and become a stakeholder in the process,” Mr Dusik underlined.

The Aktau Protocol regulates how countries should assist each other in case of oil pollution incidents and ensure that a minimum level of equipment is maintained in order to deal with spills effectively. It requires countries to inform each other of any emergency incidents on ships involving a discharge or probable discharge, their development and actions taken. Countries must also explore innovative means for mobilising resources to carry out the Protocol, including with the private sector. The Protocol is the first to be ratified by all Parties - Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and Turkmenistan – and entered into force on 25 July 2016.

National oil spill contingency plans are to be coordinated and aligned with a draft regional plan to respond to spills. Plans are also in place at national level to ensure that civil society can contribute to protecting and safeguarding the Caspian Sea environment and coastal zones.

Day of celebrations

Local residents are heavily involved in preparing for annual celebrations taking place today and tomorrow to mark the entry into force of the Tehran Convention for the Caspian Sea and its environment.

The day is aimed at raising awareness on the unique ecosystem and biodiversity of the world’s largest inland body of water and the environmental risks faced by them. A wide range of events are taking place in all five littoral states.

Activities in Azerbaijan include an essay-writing competition for children, a study visit to a water treatment site and a 2ha clean-up at the Novkhany settlement near Baku. In the Russian Federation, an ongoing annual project sees over 500 hectares of waterbodies cleaned-up on the Volga-Akhtuba floodplain and Volga delta.

In Iran, local governors, fishermen, experts and others will discuss the reasons behind and impact of Caspian Sea water level decreases during an event held at in Bandar Turkman Harbour in the country’s Golestan Province.

The Mangistau Oblast Emergency Department in Kazakhstan will meanwhile hold training exercises for responding to oil spills at Aktau’s seaport, while a drawing competition is being organised themed ‘Let Caspian Live’ for orphanage children. Children are furthermore invited to replicate marine flora and fauna at an open-air sculpture event held in Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan, among other events in the country.

Note to Editors

The Tehran Convention, administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is the first legally-binding regional agreement concluded on 4 November 2003 and signed by all five states surrounding the Caspian Sea.

Caspian Day marks the signing of the Convention, whose full name is the Framework (Tehran) Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea. In order to view the complete text of the Aktau Protocol please click here.

For more information on UNEP’s work for the Caspian Sea click here, while the status of ratification of other Protocols under the Tehran Convention can be viewed here.

For more information, please contact:

Isabelle Valentiny, Head of Communications, UNEP’s Regional Office for Europe, +41 79 251 82 36,

For UNEP global news, click here
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