Skopje is the capital and largest city of the Republic of North Macedonia with a population of close to 600,000 inhabitants, which is about one third of the total population of the country. It is also the political, cultural, economic, and academic center of the Republic of North Macedonia, and a strategic center in the Balkan peninsula linking the east to the west and the north with the south.
Although the modern capital of Skopje offers rich, cultural and natural attractions the city is confronted with several challenges. Air pollution has been a long-standing issue for Skopje, amplified by seasonal climate and weather variations, and the city’s rapid growth and migration. Therefore, the city’s administration prioritises the use of renewable sources of energy, the green economy and protection of the environment.
One of the most urgent environmental tasks identified under the Green City’s Action Plan is the construction of the wastewater treatment facility. This would solve the problem with the raw sewage discharged directly into the river Vardar which pollutes the waters and affects the livelihoods of people living downstream. Another big challenge for the city’s administration is waste management. The ongoing initiative of introducing affordable, environmentally friendly substitutes for plastic bottles and disposable plastic utensils is tackling this issue.
Many measures to decrease Skopje’s air pollution have been taken already. These include reducing car dependence and fuel consumption, subsidizing the purchase of bicycles, electric vehicles, enlarging green areas, changing the means of heating and the installation of photovoltaic panels. Whilst this has resulted in a reduction of air pollution levels in the last two years, the problem remains. Skopje’s administration believes that the implementation of the Bus Rapid Transit ("BRT") project will substantially improve the air quality in the city. The BRT system introduces Compressed Natural Gas buses which are expected to reduce the CO2 emissions from 31% (Low-End) up to 42.5% (High-End), alongside more significant reductions for the other emissions and contaminants.
Skopje’s slow progress with digitising its public services has been exposed by the Covid-19 crisis. To address this, the city’s administration aims to make use of digital tools in order to introduce innovative processes that will enable its citizens to be more engaged. The Skopje Smart City project is currently in the pipeline, which represents the first step in setting the foundations for the Skopje Digital Agenda.
The city of Skopje has been very active internationally over recent years and to keep this momentum going the city is keen to join the Intelligent Cities Challenge. Skopje hopes to learn from other participating cities on how to use technology as an enabler to further its sustainable development.