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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.


Sekhukhune Environmental Justice Network launched

sejn banner19 July 2018 - The Sekhukhune Environmental Justice Network launched today. Delivering the keynote address at the inaugural meeting of the SEJN, groundWork Director, Bobby Peek said the following:

I want us to reflect on what Madiba left us. What have we done with this freedom? What have we done with this hope? What have we done with this courage, the courage that we can take on the world and succeed? There are many Madiba stories about how he influenced people to take actions. Indeed, I want to at the outset say that one of the oldest community environmental justice networks in South Africa, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, emerged from a chance encounter with Madiba in 1995. It is this network and the very many more community environmental justice networks around South Africa that SEJN is now a part of, that keeps the true meaning of freedom, hope and courage alive. From the Highveld Environmental Justice Network, to the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance, from the Karoo Environmental Justice Movement to the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation, in all parts of South Africa community people are starting to organise as SEJN is doing. I bring solidarity and well-wishes from all of them!

You can read Bobby Peek's full address here.

Water costs, impacts of coal-fired power grossly underestimated in electricity planning

16 July 2018 - Mining coal and burning it in power stations uses large amounts of water, and pollutes even more water. It imposes massive but uncounted costs on society and particularly on poor people who live in the coal regions. A new report from the Life After Coal campaign calls for these costs to our water resources to be accounted for in the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) – South Africa’s plan for the future electricity system.

The Life After Coal campaign partners Centre for Environmental Rights, groundWork and Earthlife Africa, together with Greenpeace Africa, have indicated that they will have no option but to challenge an IRP that fails to adequately take the costs of coal into account, in court.

Life After Coal spokesperson Saul Roux says: “The Draft IRP (2016) provides cost estimates for different energy technologies but does not include externalities of critical importance for electricity planning. This means that the costs of coal-fired power generation are significantly under-counted. South Africa is a dry country and cannot afford this.”

Read the full media release here.

Proposed new air quality rules will force Eskom to comply with pollution standards, or shut down

26 June 2018 - Most of Eskom’s ageing coal power stations cause severe air pollution, which contribute to the deaths and ill-health of thousands of South Africans every year.

Despite this, Eskom has thus far been let off the hook by government – not only allowing them to postpone their compliance with air pollution standards, but failing to take enforcement action against Eskom for its pollution.

Now, the Department of Environmental Affairs has finally proposed closing some of these loopholes. Proposed amendments to law published under the Air Quality Act will only permit one postponement of compliance – for five years – with standards which should be met by April 2020 (called “new plant” standards).

Read the full media release here.

Wellington Community Defeats Waste Incinerator in South Africa

07 June 2018 - Communities of Wellington, in the Western Cape of South Africa, have successfully pushed against the Drakenstein Municipalities plans to build a Municipal Waste Incinerator. The Wellington Association against the Incinerator (WAAI) and the Drakenstein Environmental Watch (DEW), both community based organisations, worked tirelessly,  along with another GAIA member – groundWork, to campaign, resist and legally challenge the proposed incinerator. The Drakenstein Municipality recognized in their official statement “complaints and resistance by certain interest groups – especially against the proposed inclusion of an incinerator component – as well as legal processes” as part of their decision to terminate the proposed project.

groundWork has been working with community groups in Wellington in this struggle over the past few years. Musa Chamane, one of the Waste Campaigners of the organisation, explained that this victory “highlights the importance of community organizing when fighting for environmental justice” and added that “challenging these projects from different angles is crucial to stop these kind of proposals”.

Keith Roman of WAAI said that their “strategy was to intervene using the legal route to highlight the administrative flaws of the process conducted by the Drakenstein Municipality”. Caron Potocnik of DEW identified the human rights violations related to this project as their main concern “the municipality has to consider the impacts on the people of Wellington” Potocnik affirmed. Going forward both WAAI and DEW are optimistic about the town’s potential “it is great that the incinerator plans have been terminated but now we need to think of how we use sustainable methods of dealing with waste and make Wellington a model zero waste town” both organizations agreed. 

This item originally appeared on the GAIA website.

Minister's statement flies in the face of latest 'no new coal' report

04 June 2018 - The Minister of Energy on Friday reiterated government's intention to proceed with the procurement of expensive, dirty electricity from two independent coal power plants – despite compelling evidence about the disastrous impacts these plants would have for South Africa.

Earlier this week, the Energy Research Centre (ERC) released a report proving that the two new coal plants, Thabametsi and Khanyisa, would cost South Africa an additional R20 billion, and increase greenhouse gas emissions by so much that they would negate government's key plans to mitigate climate change. Credible modelling shows that, given the large surplus generation capacity, the coal IPPs are unnecessary to meet demand, and ensure security of electricity supply.

Moreover, both plants would have significant impacts on air quality and health in areas that are already heavily polluted, and would use enormous amounts of precious water resources. It is for these reasons that the Life After Coal Campaign has challenged – and will continue to challenge – all authorisations for these plants, including in High Court proceedings still underway.

Read the full media release here.


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