Life in an era of global climate crisis is not easy at all, because over time things that seemed distant to us may eventually be knocking on our door. The scientific method of approaching this problem would be to isolate the systemic agents and to repair / eliminate them, although this method is not so prevalent in B&H society. Instead issue of high pollution levels and the destruction of the already small green spaces are a norm.
Is there something wrong with this satellite image?
(Centar / Stari Grad Municipality)
Growing up in post-war Sarajevo, even as a child, I noticed a disturbing trend of urbicide and concretization of the so few green spaces and parks left, many of which were devastated and damaged due to direct damage caused by hostile action in Sarajevo in the period 1992-1995, and due to the fact that most of the wood was used as fuel as citizens had to find a way to survive the harsh winters.
If you had told someone 10-15 years ago that Alipašino Polje is a good and quality settlement for life, you’d probably get a cynical smile in response, but consider a few facts; Alipasino Polje is a settlement built during socialism that, with all its urban flaws and virtues, still allows (at least in the B and C phase, which was once the case with the A phase, which we will touch upon on later) a life of an acceptable quality.
That quality refers to apartments that are illuminated by natural light throughout the day, so that residents do not have a “bunker” experience of life and perhaps most importantly; greenery and open public space. Playgrounds, parks and meadows, because no responsible parent would let their child play on the street except… when there is no alternative, when asphalt, concrete and granite are the only surfaces accessible to children.
Of course, no one is saying that Alipašino Polje is a utopian settlement, we just use it as a point of reference; the situation in other parts of the city is much worse for the mental and physical health of the residents.
Relative abundance of green spaces.
(Alipašino polje, Novi Grad Municipality)
I mentioned the B and C phase but left out the A phase on purpose, because the A phase (the row of residential buildings along the main road from the Nedžarići tram station to the RTV tram station) is a perfect example of what happens when politicians (on all sides of the political spectrum ) lose touch with reality and the needs of citizens.
We can thus simplify the explanation of this crime against urbanism; if one were asked if placing a building that is larger in all respects than the high-rise they live in, directly in front of your residential building, would it disrupt airflow and effectively turn their apartment into a bunker space? Most respondents would answer no.There is only one problem, no one asked us and no one considered what we would leave for generations to come. The legacy of arrogant and irresponsible government structures of times now passed is concrete.
Proponents of “reforms” and the “free market” would point out to me that the sale of green space was necessary and that the construction of facilities played a large role in the economic revitalization of this Sarajevo neighborhood, but clearly the things that were done were for the economic revitalization of individuals, not the neighborhoods, and that we citizens are actually still paying the price.
I dare say that growing up in this neighborhood, in addition to all the things that it lacked, was a privilege not enjoyed by all young people in Sarajevo, because for at least a short period of my life, I had the opportunity to be a child and to live as a child, even without breaking my head about where I’m going to go out and run after the ball.
I was a kid, until I wasn’t; until the parks became buildings, the meadows became parking lots and the green turned gray.
Old aerial photo of Alipašino polje.
An optimist and a pessimist are walking down the street about the general situation, with the pessimist saying:
“It can’t get worse than it already is.”
The optimist replied with a smile on his face:
„Oh, it can“
Indeed, it can.
The data tells us that Sarajevo residents are struggling on a daily basis with the lack of public green spaces and parks; so e.g. we have the Municipality of Stari Grad with a population of 36,976 (Census 2013) with 40,829 m2 of green space, which means that every resident of this Sarajevo municipality has 1.10 m2 of green space.
Before we start shooting on the authorities’ apparent lack of concern about citizens’ health and wellbeing, I think it would be best to touch on a few important facts about how ‘green cities’ affect mental health;
- The experience of nature helps to restore the mind from the mental fatigue of work or studies, contributing to improved work performance and satisfaction.
- Urban nature, when provided as parks and walkways and incorporated into building design, provides calming and inspiring environments and encourages learning, inquisitiveness, and alertness.
- Green spaces provide necessary places and opportunities for physical activity. Exercise improves cognitive function, learning, and memory.
- Outdoor activities can help alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer’s, dementia, stress, and depression, and improve cognitive function in those recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Contact with nature helps children to develop cognitive, emotional, and behavioral connections to their nearby social and biophysical environments. Nature experiences are important for encouraging imagination and creativity, cognitive and intellectual development, and social relationships.
- Symptoms of ADD in children can be reduced through activity in green settings, thus “green time” can act as an effective supplement to traditional medicinal and behavioral treatments.
And if we leave the direct health benefits aside and stick to “strictly” environmental criteria, we will see that green cities mean better city temperature regulation throughout the year (and especially during the summer months), cleaner and better quality air (I will remind readers that the air inhaled by the citizens of Sarajevo one of the most polluted in the world) maintaining biodiversity and generally moving away from the current treatment of the living world that defies all that is natural; a green city would mean accepting the fact that the world of man and the world of nature are inseparable and that they cannot go to each other as opposing forces, but that the key to the survival of the human race is building a symbiotic relationship with the living world around us.
The report “Air Pollution and Human Health: The Case of the Western Balkans” shows that five thousand people die in the cities of this region annually due to air pollution.
It’s important to talk about numbers, because global perceptions about pollution and climate change are changing, because people dying from pollution are not just part of the statistics or “collateral damage”, but victims of gross climate injustice, which mostly affects people who are least guilty of harmful emissions.
This may also apply to the issue of green spaces. Politicians are no longer perceived just as public servants but as actors and accomplices in the silent killing of citizens, and I’m not just talking about Bosnia and Herzegovina here. Politicians are already talking about a global phenomenon that is reflected in the merger of personal and corporate interests with the aim of overriding national / common interest interests.
The time to act is now, because ask yourself if you want a future where sending children to school with respirators and filters will be a daily routine and going out for play or any outside activity will be a faded memory. It is time for the holes in the concrete to be exploited and expanded.
What the world is saying about the situation:
(ABC, United States of America)
Bosnian capital of Sarajevo hit by dangerous air pollution
(Deutsche Welle, Germany)
Winter air pollution brings ‘choking season’ to Balkans
Residents of some BiH cities warned to reduce outdoor activities due to air pollution