Skopje is the capital of Macedonia and represents a typical example of an industrialized city from the ex- Yugoslavia. Most of the “socialist” era facilities are closed; however, several of them are still in operation. Considering the fact that Skopje is in a valley, environmental pollution of the air is enormously high especially during autumn months.
One of the biggest air polluters is the Iron smelting factory- Makstil AD (Maksteel) that is situated very close to the center of the City. Makstil AD is an integrated producer of flat rolled steel products established in 1997 upon privatization and reconstruction of the former Mines and Iron & Steelworks Skopje, with Duferco Group as its main partner.
Since 2008, the citizens of Skopje and neighboring settlements have been protesting against the air pollution, and particularly against Makstil AD identified as the main air polluter, calling it “Skopje’s Chernobyl”. In December 2013, the environmental organization Ekosvest organized a petition against the company. The protests and marches became frequent, and have resulted in blockades and occupation of the factory in May and June 2014.
The Law on Environment, adopted in 2005 and harmonized with international legislation on air quality and emissions, obliged Makstil AD to by April 2014 apply for the “A” Integrated Environmental Permit and prepare an Action plan for use of clean technologies to limit the pollution, particularly of dust and micro-particles. The company asked the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning for various years of extension for accomplishing these requests; however, only 6 extra months have been approved i.e. the end of October 2014. Besides, the government requested from the State Inspectorate for Environment to impose to the company a several hundred thousand Euros fine.
At the moment the company is in operation while undertaking activities for development of the technical requirement for obtaining a Permit. The Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning is constantly monitoring the works.
Moreover, as a result of the citizens’ protests, the Ministry has been establishing of the mobile measuring units to monitor the air pollution from the factory. However, it is hard to know for sure which part of the pollution results from the Makstil operation and which from the other sources e.g. transport and other industries. The citizens and the Macedonian Green Party demanded closing the factory till obtaining “A” Environmental Permit. The Director of the Environment Inspectorate claimed the factory will be closed if it fails to fulfill the requirements until prescribed deadline. However, Makstil managed to complete all requirements for obtaining environmental permit by the 31 of October 2014. The factory resumed its production in January 2015 after a trial run of the gas filtration system. According to the company representatives, the steel factory now operates respecting the stricter environmental standards in accordance with the EU regulations.