The president shares the views of Kurir and the citizens Vučić: ’I’m against deforestation. Who in their right mind would consider going after Belgrade’s oasis!?’ The Avala Studios project is harmful to the environment The President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić has supported Kurir’s initiative and the citizens’ requests to stop the destruction of about 30 hectares of forest and green spaces in Košutnjak in order to build a commercial-residential complex taking up app. 600,000 square metres.
Kurir has been warning of the investor Avala Studios’ dangerous intention for weeks, and numerous activists, representatives of environmental associations, and environmentalists have been pointing out that the removal of forested areas and other green spaces would increase air pollution, intensify the heat island effect, and dehumanize space, resulting also in a traffic load increase in that neighbourhood, considered by many to be the ‘lungs of Belgrade’! The President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić shares the views of Kurir and the citizens regarding the importance of the fight against deforestation in Košutnjak. A fight for reforestation ’Of course I’m against the deforestation in Košutnjak. Who in their right mind would consider going after Belgrade’s oasis!? For the eight years that the Serbian Progressive Party has been in power, we have fought for reforestation, and not the destruction of forests. Košutnjak is the ’lungs’ of Belgrade, and we mustn’t allow it to be sacrificed to anyone’s personal interests,’ the President said for Kurir.
As the project implementer Avala Studios has pointed out, the Avala Film Park project consists of revitalizing the existing film studios and building new ones in order to ’attract the Hollywood and other global production industries, as well as to develop Serbian film.’ However, what caused a public outrage was the fact that, in addition to this, the project includes the construction of an enormous commercial-residential complex in one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods of Belgrade, considered an ‘oasis’ by Belgraders. The detailed site plan survey of the Avala Film complex in this park was made available to the public for preliminary review by the Secretariat for Urban Planning and Construction in early July, and over 7,000 objections to it have been filed. Caught in a lie Avala Studios initially stated for Kurir that deforestation would not take place, only to explain then that they have a stake in only 40 out of 86.8 hectares (the total covered by the Detailed Site Plan), and that there are only seven hectares of high-quality forest in the 40 hectares.
After Kurir reported that the map sent by the company itself clearly indicates that large green spaces would disappear under the onslaught of concrete – a fact verified by experts as well - Avala Studios announced a denial but gave up soon after, having realized that it was all true and that it was impossible to justify the planned devastation.
To make things worse, the company itself practically admitted that, as they stated, ’they would reduce swampland, allergenic plants, and valueless indigenous trees.’ Kurir TV’s drone filmed the general area, and the recording clearly shows that much larger surface areas are forested than is claimed by Avala Studios.
Experts have warned that even if there is low-quality plant life, it ought to be replaced with high-quality one, rather than building a residential complex for about 10,000 people.
The ’Plant a Tree’ campaign by AMG
We planted more than 50,000 trees in a day In the four-month campaign initiated by our company, AMG, titled ’Plant a Tree’, as many as 51,256 new trees were planted in a single day, which makes it the biggest reforestation project in Serbia. Kurir and AMG will always fight for reforestation and the prevention of clearcutting.
They too have given their support to Kurir’s action
Ratko Ristić, Dean of the Faculty of Forestry
’Fewer green spaces means greater city pollution’ Professor Ratko Ristić, Dean of the Faculty of Forestry, said for Kurir that it is exceptionally important to preserve Belgrade’s green spaces, and that the deforestation in Košutnjak would impact on the biodiversity of the area in many ways, as well as on the quality of life of the residents.
’The removal of green spaces in Košutnjak ramps up the potential for polluting the city and dehumanizes the urban environment. What is especially problematic is the fact that these forests are located on slopes falling towards the Topčiderska River basin. If they are removed, the potential for torrential floods increases. On the other hand, preserving the greenery, regardless of whether it is a high- or low-quality forest, a meadow, or a pasture, ensures that you have a matrix for the preservation of biodiversity, and the heat island effect is thus mitigated,‘ Ristić says, adding that it is very good that Kurir, which, as he points out, has a large readership, has supported the action of preventing deforestation.
Dušan Kovačević, member of the Serbian Academy
’We must preserve every tree’
Dušan Kovačević, a member of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, said for Kurir that humans need nature in order to keep their common sense, and that we must preserve every tree in Belgrade.
’Every tree in Belgrade is more precious than many people. We are here, we come and go, and each tree is a sigh in the fight for common sense. It doesn’t matter if we mean five, fifty, or a thousand trees, we must keep each and every one,’ Kovačević says.
Vasilije Krestić, historian and member of the Serbian Academy
’By doing this, Kurir has protected the interests of the people.’
The historian Vasilije Krestić has also supported our action: ’Forests must be preserved. You do not cut a forest without serious and entirely justified reasons, nor do you destroy nature without thinking. It’s good that you made a stand to prevent it. That is certainly the right role for you as a medium – protecting the interests of the people.’
Mirko Popović, RERI
’Cutting trees is an attack against the citizens’
Mirko Popović, of the NGO Renewables and Environmental Regulatory Institute – RERI, said for Kurir: ’The plan states that the aim of the construction is to create an environment conducive to the development of film industry. No one’s questioning this statement by the investor. As regards the commercial and residential areas, it’s absolutely unacceptable from an environmental point of view. Cutting trees or the undergrowth is an attack against the right of citizens to clean air and a healthy environment.’
Kurir / E.K. Photo: Kurir TV