A mere ten-minute drive from the capital Pristina, the small town of Obiliq is a centre for the mining industry in Kosovo. With only 6,800 inhabitants, Obiliq is home to three coal mines and two power stations that produce the vast majority of Kosovo’s electricity output.
This is a region that relies heavily on employment from the power plants, with 5,000 people from Obiliq and neighbouring villages working in the industry. Inevitably, these mining and industrial activities have also caused deep environmental damage.
Keep it Green is a grassroots youth organisation that is working to raise awareness of environmental issues in Obliq and the effect these are having on the population.
“Around 30 percent of people in Obiliq suffer from respiratory diseases,” Guxim Klinaku, Director of Keep It Green tells EED.
He explains how Keep It Green was inspired by a conversation in a coffee bar in 2015. As Klinaku recalls: “We were sitting drinking coffee and we started talking about all the problems our community was facing. We realised we had to do something.”
Six years later, Keep It Green is now a network of almost 60 who focus on community-based projects that encourage local citizens to become more interested in protecting their environment. The last few years have not been without its challenges given the economic hardship many face in this industrial region.
“It’s hard to get people to care for the environment when they are struggling to earn a living wage,” admits Klinaku.
Keep It Green are aware of these realities, while continuing to advocate for greener energy in Obiliq. Prior to the Covid-19 period, they held weekly protests in front of the power plant to push for implementation of environmental legislation in Obiliq. They have also organised many community actions to improve the city.
Volunteers recently cleaned up a park and decorated it with street art to make it a pleasant space for local people. They spearheaded an annual Green Art Fest, a city-wide festival to raise awareness of environmental issues. And the organisation has been working with local schools since 2016, conducting ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ workshops, teaching students how to reduce waste.
Keep It Green is also active in organising summer camps for young people centred around environmental themes. The main objective of these camps is to raise a new generation of young leaders for environmental activism in Kosovo.
Like other similar organisations, Keep It Green had to come up with creative ways to adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic. While the ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ workshops are proving successful even in webinar form, they had to cancel the 2020 edition of the Green Art Fest. This summer they are planning to run one of their trademark environmental activist camps, involving 20 participants in a three-day training on raising awareness of environmental problems.
Support from the European Endowment for Democracy (EED) is now enabling Keep it Green to transition from a volunteer-based operation, surviving on enthusiasm, to a more stable organisation with a regular staff. It is also ensuring that its activities, such as the environment awareness camp, can become permanent activities, allowing for more strategic planning and development.
“This funding comes at a very important time for us. The environment is now a very popular topic around the world, with more people interested in getting involved. While things are less developed in Kosovo for now, I’m hopeful that soon the green wave will arrive here too,” says Klinaku.
About the European Endowment for Democracy
The European Endowment for Democracy (EED) is an independent, grant-making organisation, established in 2013 by the European Union (EU) and EU member states to foster democracy in the European Neighbourhood, the Western Balkans, Turkey and beyond. EED supports civil society organisations, pro-democracy movements, civic and political activists, and independent media platforms and journalists working towards a pluralistic, democratic political system.
This is an abridged version of an article published by the European Endowment for Democracy. Read the original article
Photo credits: Keep it green, European Endowment for Democracy
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