The Smelter of Veles

On the 7th and 8th of July the biketour visited the town of Veles. Veles is well know for it is high level of pollution. The pollution is mainly due to a very old iron smelter build in the early seventies by a German company. The smelter produced high polluted smoke which is blown by the wind in the direction of the town of Veles. What impacts the health of Veles’ people even wore is a big hill of heavy metal dust laying a round next to the old factor. The factory is close now for 5 years, but the danger is still there because of the ugly polluted dust.
Since the last summer, there a rumors, that a swiss company, Glencore has bought the old smelter and wants to reopen it, keeping the old highly polluting technology.

The Biketour visited NGO “Green power”, which fights against the smelter and tries to inform about the risks and the impact on the health of the people of Veles. We were shown a documentary movie about the smelter and the impact of the smelter on the health of the people.

After the screening of the film, we had a discussion with the people from Greenpower. Aleksander Kukulev, Emil Smilev and Igor Angelov told us about the history of the Smelter. According to Kukulev, 40 years ago there was made a grave error by building the factory in the way it was build – downwind of Veles. The people of Veles have paid a very severe price for that – it is the most polluted town of Macedonia. No-one has the right to punish the people from the town for another thirty years, according to Kukulev. The members of Greenpower explained that actually the vegetables which grow in the region of Veles are not suitable for consumption. And they told that just recently, a Croatian agricultural company, Agrocor, started to grow onions on fields right under the smoke of the smelter of Veles. These onions are then sold in Croatia, were no-body knows about Veles…

Actually, the members of Greenpower were trying to find an environmental lawyer who could help them. Just as anyone else, the people of Veles have the right to a healthy life. So they were trying to claim this right and fight the problems with the smelter. Unfortunately, in Macedonia, there are no lawyers who are willing or able to legally assist the citizens of the town. Maybe, one day, when Macedonia enters the EU, they might be able to achieve something, the people from Greenpower said.

The next morning the Biketour went by the (still closed) factory, and saw with their own eyes the piles of polluting dust which lie downwind of Veles, before we continued to the town of Teovo.

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