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groundWork is a non-profit environmental justice service and developmental organization working primarily in Southern Africa in the areas of Climate & Energy Justice, Coal, Environmental Health, Global Green and Healthy Hospitals, and Waste. groundWork is the South African member of Health Care Without Harm and Friends of the Earth International.


Minister Gwede Mantashe to visit the Somkhele community

21 September 2018 - On Saturday 22nd of September 2018, Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe will finally face the community of Somkhele/Mpukunyoni. The community, which for years has suffered a number of injustices and human rights abuses under the hands of ruthless mining bullies, will finally get a chance to engage the minister on issues related to mining in their area.

For years they have tried without success to engage with the various ministers and the Department of Mineral Resources.

What makes Mantashe’s visit even more interesting is that on the 24th of August 2018, the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO) representing over 3500 residents from the very same community crossed swords with the Tendele Mining Company at the high court in Pietermaritzburg. Legal representatives of the community tabled evidence of how the mine was violating environmental laws and how the current operation by Tendele has already displaced and destructed countless livelihoods; taking away and polluting land and water, vital self-sustainability sources for this rural farming community. Judgement is still pending.

Read the full media release here.

Why the coal-fired power station IPPs are unlikely to get out of the starting-blocks

20 September 2018 - One of the key objectives of the Life After Coal Campaign (consisting of Earthlife Africa, the Centre for Environmental Rights, and groundWork) is to discourage the development of any new coal-fired power stations, which would lock South Africa into further dependence on dirty, expensive coal for decades to come, and delay the urgent need to transition to a low-carbon future.

For this reason, for the past 5 years,the Campaign has been resisting the roll-out of the Coal Baseload Independent Power Producers (“coal IPPs”) programme, following the then Minister of Energy’s December 2012 Determination for 2500MW of coal-fired power from coal IPPs. The Determination was based on the now extremely outdated 2010 Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP), which made provision for 6250MW of new coal from coal IPPs between 2014 and 2030.

Read the full media release here.

groundWork statement to the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN) gathering in Nairobi, Kenya. The statement is a request to African leaders to consider the future of the continent in relation to the environmental and health challenges it faces, and also a reminder that coal, plastic, and pollution do not form part of a desired future for Africa.

18 September 2018 - Africa is not a cave: Coal, waste incineration, and plastics are a danger to our environment and the well being of our people. No to coal - yes to renewables; no to closing of democracy - yes to open democracy; no to incineration and plastic pollution - yes to Zero Waste as an innovative solution to addressing environmental problems and job creation, energy and food security and mitigating climate change.

This is the call of groundWork and the very many community organisations and partners we work with to the Seventh Special Session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) that is being held at the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme in Gigiri, Nairobi, Kenya from 17 to 19 September 2018.

Read the full statement here.

ESCOM pollution

Eskom’s latest bid to continue deadly pollution strongly contested

18 September 2018 - Five of South Africa’s largest environmental justice organisations have come out strongly against Eskom’s further round of multiple applications to postpone compliance with air pollution standards. Allowing Eskom to continue with its pollution will mean that at least 2200 people in affected areas will die premature deaths every year as a result of exposure to this pollution.

Although Eskom was already granted widespread postponements from compliance with the so-called minimum emission standards (MES) under the Air Quality Act in early 2015, it has made little effort to ensure that it can comply timeously with South Africa’s weak MES.

Read the full media release here.

groundWork challenges UNO support for waste incineration project

14 September 2018 - groundWork, along with 77 other organisations, has signed an open letter asking the UN Environment Program to adopt a clear stance and policy supporting sustainable waste and resource management approaches at the top of the waste hierarchy. 

The organisations further call on the UNO  to refrain from endorsing waste incineration projects, and to stop advocating waste incineration in all the agency’s publications and statements.

You can read the full text of the open letter here.

Regional Community Exchange: Building a solidarity in resistance to coal

11 September 2018 - From the 10th to the 14th of September 2018, nine environmental justice organizations [1] are gathering in Botswana for a regional community to community exchange under the banner of Building a solidarity in resistance to coal. The exchange will engage 30 participants from Botswana and South Africa.

This particular exchange has a great significance for many reasons, including the recently announced Chinese investment on coal fired power stations and mining in Africa, which is nothing short of a step back in the efforts to develop the African continent towards cleaner, healthier, and more affordable energy. Also, the Department of Energy in South Africa released the draft Integrated Resource Plan 2018, for public comment and the plan includes two unnecessary coal-fired power stations.

Read the full media release here.

China must play a positive role in Africa - statement by groundWork, Friends of the Earth, South Africa.

06 September 2018 - The China Development Bank’s $2.5 billion loan to Eskom, to continue the construction of the 4800 MW Kusile coal-fired power station locks South African into a debt spiral.  The troubled plant - which has recently had a major destructive fire - has been delayed for years and cost-to-completion is now R225 billion.  Original cost estimates for the new coal plants was R30 billion in 2005 by the then Minister of State Enterprises, Mr A Erwin.

South Africa has an energy surplus and renewable energy is coming on line cheaper than Eskom’s coal fired power stations.  This loan will lock South African into coal, and deny South Africans the opportunity for expanding renewable energy production, and negatively impact plant manufacturing job creation opportunities in South Africa.  China already employs 3.6 million people in the renewable energy sector. 

We also note that the China National Electric Equipment Corporation (CNEEC) building of the Morupule B coal-fired power station has been problematic, with it often breaking down. This has forced Botswana to depend on diesel generators and therefore spiking up costs in their fiscus.

China must play a positive role in Africa, and ensure that their support for Africa must be guided by the best energy choices of the people of Africa, choices that will support and promote learning and jobs in Africa for Africans. China should not use Africa to dump old technology or to make work for Chinese constructors of coal-fired plants or big dams.

Groote Schuur Hospital to host an environmental fair on the 7th September 2018

plastic hospital waste

Groote Schuur Hospital, a member of the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals (GGHH) will be hosting an environmental fair on the 7th September 2018.

Under the GGHH initiative, hospitals, health systems, and health organizations from around the world connect, learn, and collaborate with each other to support their efforts toward reducing the environmental footprint of the health sector.

The main focus of the environmental fair will be on plastic pollution.

You can find more details here.

Life After Coal, Greenpeace Africa slam inclusion of new coal in electricity plan

28 August 2018 - The inclusion of new coal in the updated draft Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP) will cost South Africa close to R20 billion more than we need to spend, and will make electricity more expensive for all South Africans. If the Department of Energy were to publish the least-cost plan that civil society organisations have been demanding, it would not include any new coal.

Allowing the two new coal plants contemplated by the draft IRP to go ahead would be disastrous for water resources, air quality, health, land, and the climate.

The Life After Coal Campaign(consisting of Earthlife Africa, the Centre for Environmental Rights, and groundWork) and Greenpeace Africa argue that the inclusion of an additional 1000 MW of new coal-fired power – on top of existing and under-construction coal – puts the Department of Energy in conflict with the rights enshrined in the Constitution, given that there are safer, cleaner, and less-expensive energy options available.

Read the full media release here.

Centre for Environmental Rights welcomes new SAHRC report which calls authorities, mining industry to order

22 August 2018 - The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) announced today that it welcomes the South African Human Rights Commission’s report on the Underlying Socio-Economic Challenges Facing Mining-Affected Communities published today, incorporating findings, directives and recommendations from the hearings held in September and November 2016.

The Commission’s findings corroborate many of the concerns that mining affected communities and civil society organisations have been raising for years. Not only does the report find large-scale non-compliance by both mining companies and the authorities charged with policing them, but that the current legal regime does not adequately safeguard human rights.

The Commission finds that South Africa’s experience has shown that many mining-affected communities are often worse off as a result of the negative social, economic and environmental impacts of the industry. “This is a crucial finding against the relevant authorities who currently adopt a ‘mining at any cost’ approach to licencing decisions,” says the head of CER’s Mining Programme, Catherine Horsfield.

Read the full CER media release here.

The Somkhele and Fuleni communities neighbouring the Hluluwe iMfolozi Park unite on 24th August 2018 at the Pietermaritzburg High Court in their resistance against the ongoing illegal mining by Tendele Coal Mining (Pty) Ltd and its proposed expansion.

View of mining waste dump

21 August 2018 - In an application to be heard in the high court in Pietermaritzburg, evidence will be tabled before Judge Seegobin of how, since 2017, the mine has been violating the National Environmental Management Act by breaching environmental and other laws. The mining company operates illegally next to arguably the most sensitive area in South Africa, with the largest population of rhinos in the world.

Tendele’s human rights abuses and negative impacts on the lives and livelihoods of the greater Mpukunyoni area, where Somkhele is situated, will be tabled in various reports, including the South African Human Rights Commission’s recently released report on hearings with mining affected communities that include Somkhele. Meanwhile, Tendele plans to expand its operation and has identified 124 households to be moved from their rightful land. Many more families will lose their livelihoods and have their lives and health destroyed by living in close proximity to the mine.

Read the full media release here.

Call to action: Despite its coal power stations harming thousands every year, Eskom now wants even more time to continue polluting

16 August 2018 - Eskom has once again announced that it will not meet pollution standards for 14 of its coal power stations.

Although Eskom has already been given permission to postpone its compliance with the Air Quality Act’s minimum emission standards, and despite overwhelming evidence of the devastating health impacts of its emissions, it now plans to ask the Department of Environmental Affairs for even more time to meet standards – in other words, to continue with its pollution. In several cases, Eskom says it does not ever intend to meet emission standards.

Eskom is now asking to defer compliance at 11 coal power stations on the Mpumalanga Highveld, and one in the Vaal Triangle. Both the Vaal Triangle and the Mpumalanga Highveld were declared air pollution priority areas under the Air Quality Act in 2006 and 2007, requiring urgent action to clean up the air in those regions in order to protect human health. Despite more than a decade having passed since the Highveld and the Vaal Triangle were declared priority areas, widespread air pollution, with dangerous health impacts, remains. This is a clear violation of the Constitutional right to an environment not harmful to health or well-being.

Read the full media release here.

Wheels come off the Eskom offset

14 August 2018 - Eskom is the biggest air polluter in the land through its intensive coal fired power stations. This makes Eskom not just a producer of energy but also a manufacturer of illnesses and deaths. The power utility has failed to comply with the minimum emission standards (MES) set by a democratic process, which included all role players and led by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), which is aimed at reducing outdoor pollution from coal fired power stations, in order to protect the lives of the people who are already suffering from respiratory diseases and dying from the pollution from coal facilities. It is also important to mention that the standards set by the DEA are less protective of health compared to those of the WHO (World Health Organization).

Instead of meeting these standards, Eskom opted to start an offset programme in a few Highveld communities aimed to reduce outdoor air pollution by addressing indoor pollution by improving the insulation of the houses and providing LPG gas stoves, heaters, wall insulation, and ceiling to the communities. Their basic idea and intention is to cut domestic emissions by switching households to cleaner energy sources, low emission appliances, and insulation as an offset to the millions of kilograms of pollutants they emit from their fleet of coal fired power stations.

groundWork staffer Tsepang Molefe spoke to Sunnboy and Petunia Skhosana, residents of KwaZamokuhle township, Hendrina in Mpumalanga about their experience of the Eskom programme.

Read his full account here.

Life After Coal Campaign comments on Climate Change Bill 2018

08 August 2018 - The Life After Coal Campaign (LAC) today submitted a comprehensive response to the Department of the Environment on the Climate Change Bill 2018.

The general thrust of the comments is that whilst supporting the Bill, the LAC is highly concerned that the Bill, in its current form, does not go far enough to address the severity and urgency of the threat of climate change. Instead of responding urgently to the need to address climate change, and making adequate provision for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and for holding emitters and government accountable, the Bill's focus is on creating a bureaucracy of government bodies, plans, and processes.

The LAC further points out that at present, South Africa is not on track to meeting the Paris Agreement target of holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C. This means that South Africa is continuing to expose itself and its people to devastating temperature increases and other climate impacts that will cause irreversible harm, as acknowledged in the White Paper and NDC. This is not consistent with the Bill of Rights in the Constitution, in particular, the rights to life, dignity, access to food and water, and to an environment not harmful to health or well-being.

Read the full submission by the Life After Coal Campaign here.

SDCEA meeting

The importance of community activism

03 August 2018 - Addressing the 23rd Biennial General Meeting of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), groundWork Director Bobby Peek observed that the work of community activists at the SDCEA "is never about self. It was, is, and always will be about the community of south Durban. From that very first protest against Engen on the 25th March 1995 till today, 23 years later, the defence of the people of south Durban has been at the forefront of the struggle. With the odds still stacked against us, there is no choice but to stand with each other, support each other, and make sure through this we recognise that the work we do is not for ourselves."

"Today, too often, successful groups who started with resistance fall into the trap of being NGOs taking on a different persona and position to that into which they were born. It is community groups or fence-line formations like SDCEA and its sister organisations such as the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance, the South African Waste Pickers Association, the Karoo Environmental Justice Movement and the recently launched Sekhukhune Environmental Justice Network that reminds us that people living on the fence-line and their struggle is most important", he added.

You can read the full address here and also Bobby's thoughts on the current state of environmental justice in his column From the Smokestack in the groundWork June 2018 Newsletter here.


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