Serbia country briefing - The European environment — state and outlook 2015

Briefing Published 18 Feb 2015 Last modified 11 May 2020
7 min read
Photo: © Serbian Environmental Protection Agency

Main themes and sectors addressed in the national State of Environment report

The Serbian Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) has a responsibility to prepare a national State of the Environment (SOE)[1] report on a yearly basis. This is in accordance with Articles 76 and 77 of the Law on Environmental Protection[2]. This SOE report is one of the key documents in the field of environmental protection. Its role is to support decision makers as well as to provide environmental information to the scientific community and the general public. It also acts as an instrument for the direct application of Article 74 of the Constitution of Republic of Serbia[3] which describes the right of citizens to live in healthy environment while being continuously informed about its state in a timely and comprehensive manner.

Serbian SOE reports are based on the indicators approach by applying the Driving Forces-Pressures-State-Impacts-Responses (DPSIR) concept. Since 2006 reports have been produced on a yearly basis. The environmental topics presented in the report are grouped and organized in accordance with National list of Environmental Indicators[4]:

  • Air quality and climate change;
  • Water;
  • Nature and biodiversity;
  • Soil;
  • Waste;
  • Forestry, hunting and fisheries;
  • Sustainable use of renewable resources;
  • Economy and social potentials and activities;
  • Subjects of environmental protection system;
  • Implementation of national legislative in the field of environmental protection.

The overall quality of the SOE report has improved by increasing the amount and quality of collected data and information in support of updating existing and creating new environmental indicators.

Key findings of the State of Environment report 

Air Quality[5] in urban agglomerations is characterized by polluting substances exceeding daily limit values. An increase in particulate matter (PM10) and Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations have been detected in urban areas. An "Appropriate Plan of Air Quality Management" has been prepared for municipality of Bor due to high levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2). Pollen has been also observed and ragweed was again detected as a dominant allergen.

Air emissions indicators show a fluctuating trend for SO2 and NOx which occurred due to the decline in industrial production. An increase in NH3 took place after 2005. The most significant contribution to the total quantity of emissions of these gases provides energy sector (NOx-57% and SO2-82%) and agriculture (92% forNH3). Emissions of PM10 are constant for the whole period and the most important sources are the energy sector (55%) and agriculture (29%). NMVOC emissions are constant for the entire period.

Surface and ground water quality monitoring, performed by the SEPA, shows that in most cases concentrations of BOD, ammonium ion, nitrates and orthophosphates remain within range defined as excellent or good ecological status (I and II class of water quality). The worst quality has been detected in surface waters (rivers and channels) in the province of Vojvodina because concentration of polluting substances of almost half of the samples are not within ranges prescribed for particular water bodies. 

Regarding water emissions, the law states that sewage systems should be managed by public enterprises. Data indicates average connection rates to the sewage systems for 60% of inhabitants. A survey carried out in 2013 noted that 23 communities reported that they have access to an Urban Waste Water Treatment (UWWT) plant. In 2012, 67 Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) industrial facilities submitted data about wastewater discharging from 167 outlets. Eighty of them have some form of treatment - mechanical or biological. 54.76% of industrial facilities discharged their wastewater into the river and 19.04% into city sewer systems.

In the field of waste management indicators for municipal solid waste (MSW) generation shows that MSW increases, except in 2012. Total amount of generated MSW for 2012 was 2.62 million tonnes (0.36 t per capita). Average coverage of waste collection is around 70%. 21 MSW landfills sites are less than 100 m from watercourses and 5 of them are practically on the river banks. The total amount of industrial waste generated in Serbia in the 2012 was 8.2 million tonnes. The share of hazardous waste in this amount was 3%. 

Biodiversity[6] and forestry issues have been also tackled in the SOE. One of the key progress indicators is the increase in the number of protected species. They increased to 1760 for species under strict protection and 868 under protection. More than 50% of strictly protected species are listed within international conventions and EU Directives. Forests cover around 32% of territory of Republic of Serbia therefore keeping forest exploitation within sustainable thresholds.

Soil quality monitoring has not been established at the state level. The main soil pollutants are Zinc (Zn), Copper (Cu), Nickel (Ni), Chromium (Ch) and Cobalt (Co). At the national level, there are about 384 localities comprising potentially contaminated (90%), contaminated (8%) and re-mediated sites (2%).

Results of the analysis of local soil pollution sources showed that the majority of sources come from public municipal waste dumps (43.5%) followed by locations used for exploitation and oil production (22.5%). Other important soil pollution sources are industrial waste dumps and industrial facilities. At the same time, examination of soil samples in proximity to 28 industrial facilities showed increased values of several elements.

Main policy responses to key environmental challenges and concerns

Protected areas cover just 5.91% of total area, which is insufficient based on national targets of 12%[7]. During the period 1980-2006 average annual increase of protected areas was about 13000 ha. In 2007 and 2008 only 1083 ha were protected. From 2008 to 2012 the area of protected areas actually decreased by around 20 000 ha due to the correction applied at these areas.

Figure 1. Cumulative surface of different protected areas

Figure 1. Serbia

Source: Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection

As a response to the need for establishing an integrated environmental monitoring during the period 2010-2014, efforts have been applied in increasing the scope of soil quality monitoring. This includes a systematic assessment of chemical pollution in urban areas and industrial zones. In 2010 a regulation[8] was adopted creating a base for systematic soil quality monitoring and inventories of contaminated sites.

Policy in the energy field has been focused on increased use of renewable energy sources, implementation of programs for energy efficiency, cleaner development mechanisms and increased reliability of energy supply. Serbia has set its internal goal to increase the share of renewable energy sources in gross final energy consumption to 27% by the year 2020. Implementation of the first energy efficient action plan for the period 2010-2012 has achieved 81% of planned energy savings for this period.

Resource efficiency considerations are included in a number of key policies: National Environmental Protection Programme[9]National Strategy for Sustainable Use of Natural Resources and Goods[10], Strategy of Energy Sector development till 2015[11], National CDM Strategy[12].

Significant progress has been achieved in the field of economic instruments for environmental protection by adopting a set of laws in 2009[13] which define new environmental taxes thus increasing revenues. Such laws have also been applied at a local and regional level.

Country specific issues

Sustainable use of water resources requires specialized programmes for control and mitigation of drinking water losses in distribution systems. Such programmes should contain projects for distribution network recovery and increasing management efficiency. Namely, average water losses in public water supply systems were about 33% in 2012. The common characteristics of these systems with significant losses are limited water resources and a deficit in water supply.

There has been a decrease of 10-15% of the game animals during the last five years. This is an important indicator as regards forest and grassland ecosystem stability. The numbers of game animals have not increased despite an increase of 75% in the forest area in the last 50 years.

Systematic control of agricultural soil fertility indicates that the amount of organic carbon in arable land has decreased. More than 50 of soil samples have a low level (1.1-2%) of organic carbon while 12.8% of samples have a very low level (<1%). The sustainability of agricultural ecosystems in Serbia mostly depends on correct system management.

In order to increase energy efficiency, institutional decentralization has been initiated. In addition to the Ministry in charge of energy, six Regional Energy Efficiency Centers and the Network of energy managers Serbia have been established. Efficient use of natural resources policy has been identified as a main driving force in the process of a transition towards green economy.

National legislation on air quality has defined and established a state network for monitoring of allergen pollen concentrations, a natural "pollutant" impacting on the health of the population health.


[1] Serbian Environmental Protection Agency, 2013, Report on the State of Environment in the Republic of Serbia for 2012, for 2011

Link to SERIS

[2] „Official Gazette of Republic of Serbia” No. 135/04 and 36/09

[3] „Official Gazette of Republic of Serbia” No. 98/06

[4] „Official Gazette of Republic of Serbia” No. 37/11

[5] National Network for automatic air quality monitoring

[6] Serbian Biodiversity Portal 

[7] Spatial Plan of Republic Serbia 2010 - 2020 („Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia”, No. 88/10)

[8] The Regulation on the program for systematic monitoring of the soil quality, indicators for evaluation of soil degradation and methodology for preparation of remediation program („Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia”, No. 88/10)

[9] „Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia”, No.12/10

[10] „Official Gazette of Republic of Serbia“ No. 33/12

[11] „Official Gazette of Republic of Serbia“ No. 44/05

[12] „Official Gazette of Republic of Serbia“ No. 30/10

[13] Law on Amendments to the Law on Environmental Protection („Official Gazette of RS”, 135/2004, 72/2009 and 36/09); Waste Management Law („Official Gazette of RS”, 36/2009); Law on Packaging and Packaging Waste („Official Gazette of RS”, 36/2009); Nature Protection Law („Official Gazette of RS”, 36/2009); Law on Protection and Sustainable Use of Fish Stocks („Official Gazette of RS”,  36/2009).


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