Kosovo activists urge US help to stop coal-fired plant project

Campaign groups in Kosovo have asked the United States to put pressure on the World Bank not to fund a proposed lignite coal-fired power station just outside Pristina, an activist told AFP on Friday.

"We ask the US to use its influence in the World Bank, where it has the majority of votes, in changing the approach to the energy sector in Kosovo," Fisnik Korenica of a 10-member coalition of non-governmental groups told AFP.

In a joint letter sent to US Secretary of State John Kerry "we ask for giving up the project of building the new plant and investing (instead) in renewable and clean sources of energy," said Korenica, head of the non-profit Group for Legal and Politic Studies.

The proposed plant a few kilometres (miles) of the capital would replace the Soviet-designed 1960s-era plant Kosovo A, which spits out 2.5 tonnes of dust every hour.

Kosovo A is outdated and considered the largest source of air pollution in Europe, and the European Union has promised to help with its decommissioning. Meanwhile, another plant, Kosovo B -- built in the 1980s -- is poorly maintained.

The mooted solution -- shuttering Kosovo A and building a new, 600-megawatt lignite-fired power station financed through the World Bank -- has provoked outrage among Kosovo's environmental community.

Lignite is considered the dirtiest of all fossil fuels and green groups have called for cancellation of the new project, arguing that lung cancer and respiratory diseases are cutting a swathe through villages next to the two ageing electricity stations.

Energy remains a particular challenge for Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

Power cuts are frequent, propelled by years of underinvestment in the tiny territory's energy sector.