Industrial Pollution in Macedonia, Now Coming Up Roses

Macedonia roses photo

Image: Flickr via Roberto Verzo

Veles, a town in northern Macedonia where industrial pollution has left the soil with heavy metals seven times over the international safety limit, thinks it has found a solution: plants. Specifically, roses.

The problem stems from a lead and zinc smelter that has left a 30-year legacy of contamination but claimed no responsibility for cleanup. Residents aren't getting much help, from the government, either. The soil in Veles is contaminated with heavy metals including lead and cadmium, leading the World Health Organization 10 years ago to declare the town a dangerous place to live—yet the government has continued to fail to fix the problem.

Veles is said to have the highest death rate in Macedonia, and without fully-developed immune systems, children are often at highest risk. Tests of two children's hair samples at least seven years ago found lead concentrations five and seven times above the norm, and health problems including cancer, infertility, and increasing miscarriages persist.

So, what to do when the government refuses to act on a problem that citizens say they continue to be affected by?

More from WAZ Euobserver:

Following the advice of agricultural researchers from Skopje University, the mayor of Veles, Goran Petrov, has announced a campaign to plant 5,000 roses in the town in a project funded by the Swiss embassy in Macedonia. The idea is that the plant's root system will decontaminate the soil by absorbing heavy metals.

Petrov continued, saying they will "massively plant roses in public spaces"—which will decontaminate the soil, but also help the city to be "more beautiful."

More on heavy metals and industrial pollution
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