PALAJ, Kosovo, Oct 29 (Reuters) – Skender Smajli, 64, spends 15 hours a day on an oxygen tube because of what his doctors say is chronic pulmonary disease incurred from decades of exposure to air pollution emitted by old coal-fired factories common in the Balkans.
Smajli lives in a village outside the Kosovo town of Obilic, home to two coal-fired power plants of the sort blamed in part for planet-warming emissions causing climate change, the subject of global COP26 talks starting in Glasgow, Scotland on Oct. 31.
Recalling his days on the job before being forced to retire early on disability grounds, Smajli said he and co-workers “had to clean the furnaces where the coal was burned, at high temperatures, and with a lot of dust and ash.”
Besim Morina, a pulmonologist who has treated Smajli, said he was diagnosed mainly with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in which his work at the Kosovo Energy Corporation (KEK) plant “was the main factor”, as well as living close to it.
“Most of my friends (at the plant) have died from it,” said the white-bearded Smajli, who also has Parkinson’s disease.
Kosovo boasts one of Europe’s cheapest electricity rates, at just six euro cents per kilowatt hour (kwh), a legacy of its socialist past in old federal Yugoslavia and then Serbia until independence in 2008.
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