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 Creecy upholds enforcement action against Eskom’s killer Kendal power station


Photo: © Mujahid Safodien-Greenpeace.

18 May 2020 - The Environment Minister, Barbara Creecy, has rejected Eskom’s objection to and confirmed the compliance notice issued to Eskom in December 2019 by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) to Eskom in relation its troubled Kendal power station.

Minister Creecy has ordered the following, inter alia:

  • that, within 30 days of the decision, Eskom must stop operations at either unit 1 or 5 unit until DEFF agrees that its operation may commence. During this period, Eskom must carry out the required maintenance on one unit at a time to ensure compliance with its air emission licence; and
  • that within 60 days of the decision, for units 2, 3, 4, and 6, Eskom must submit a plan of action (prepared by a suitable independent expert) outlining measures and timeframes to ensure these units comply with the licence.

In her decision, the Minister states that she is “mindful of the fact that failure to take action to bring [Kendal] back into compliance … will continue to present serious environmental impacts and health threats to the affected communities.”

Read the full media release here.

CER makes a Constitutional case for local government to provide clean electricity

13 May 2020 - The City of Cape Town seeks to develop its own clean electricity capacity without requiring the national Energy Minister’s permission. Legal representatives for the City, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) and the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, with the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) as a friend of the court (amicus curiae), made their submissions before High Court Judge Leonie Windell in a virtual hearing on 11 and 12 May 2020. The hearing was not open to the public, but was recorded.

The Constitutional obligations of local government, in relation to electricity generation, are a central focus of the case.

The CER sought to assist the court in understanding the important role that local governments can and must play in protecting human health and the environment, by facilitating the transition from harmful fossil fuel-based electricity to renewable (solar and wind) electricity.  Fossil-fuel based electricity from coal currently makes up the majority of South Africa’s electricity, and contributes to 40% of the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

In addition to municipalities’ obligations to provide services like affordable and accessible electricity (as the City of Cape Town argues), they have a Constitutional duty to provide clean and healthy electricity which does not result in harmful air and water pollution or worsen climate change. Municipalities should not be impeded in fulfilling those obligations.

Read the full CER media release here.

Eskom resists enforcement while new evidence on deaths caused by Kendal’s pollution emerge

Kendal Power Station

Photo: CER

29 April 2020 - Presenting shocking new expert findings on the health effects of the ongoing violations by Eskom’s Kendal Power Station to the Environment Minister, environmental justice organisations groundWork, Earthlife Africa, and the Vukani Environmental Movement have asked her to take immediate action to stop the toxic pollution from Kendal.

Kendal power station, near the N12 highway, nestled between Johannesburg and eMalahleni, is located within the Highveld Priority Area – declared as such by government in 2007 due to the high levels of air pollution and resultant dangerous health impacts.

Read the full media release here.

World Earth Day - 22 April 2020

Coronavirus Resource Center

A picture containing drawing, sign  Description automatically generated21 April 2020 - The coronavirus pandemic puts an extraordinary and unprecedented burden on health systems, organizations, and professionals. Never before have we faced a global crisis of this magnitude, one that challenges every country's capacity to deliver health care services.

groundWork partner, Health Care Without Harm, has developed a webpage as a resource center for its partners around the world, for members of its Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network, and for the broader community engaged at the intersection of environment, climate change and health.

You can visit the HCWH resource page by clicking here, or you can download a copy of the resources here.

Pandemic Highlights Society's Historical Debt to Waste Pickers – It's Time To Make It Up To Them

20 April 2020 - groundWork partner GAIA - a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries - has drawn attention to the plight of wastepickers in the time of Covid-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the way we handle our waste, bringing with it a host of environmental, social and cultural challenges. For millions of people who make a living in the informal sector, isolation measures that guarantee their safety pose a dramatic threat to their livelihoods. People in the informal waste sector–those who do the critical yet thankless role of collecting and sorting our waste and recyclables without formal recognition and protections from their municipalities– are now facing a grave threat. 15 million informal waste workers and their families risk losing their livelihood due to Covid-19. 

You can read the full GAIA statement, learn more about the plight of wastepickers, and make a contribution to the GAIA Emergency Solidarity Fund, here.

Environment Minister orders the disclosure of big polluters' climate information, CER announces.

ArcelorMittal South Africa's Vanderbijlpark plant Image: James Oatway

ArcelorMittal South Africa's Vanderbijlpark plant Image: James Oatway

09 April 2020 - The Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries has upheld the appeal lodged by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) against the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries' (DEFF) 2019 refusal to disclose key greenhouse gas (GHG) emission data and GHG emissions reduction plans for 16 heavy polluters.

In so doing, Minister Creecy has ordered DEFF to disclose GHG data of some of South Africa's highest GHG emitters, including Eskom, Sasol, ArcelorMittal, PPC, Exxaro, South32, Glencore, Seriti, SAPPI and Anglo American.

Read the full CER media release here.

The Water Crisis in a Time of the COVID-19 Crisis - Women of Somkhele and civil society groups call on government to uphold promises and to provide water, in the time of the COVID-19 threat.

08 April 2020 - The women of Somkhele in KwaZulu-Natal are in a desperate and dire state without basic water supply during the COVID-19 pandemic and they, along with supporting civil society groups, are desperately calling on government to fulfil their promises to provide them with water. 

The Somkhele community has already been facing severe and often catastrophic water scarcity, created by the combined effects of coal mining activities and droughts. Now, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, these communities are facing a major crisis.

For the past week – the second of South Africa’s national lockdown – communities in the cluster of villages that make up Somkhele have had NO water. Not even the local clinic has access to water. Most households cannot afford to request water tankers, and some do not own JoJo tanks – a common method of storing water. Since the spread of COVID-19, Somkhele women are concerned that they will not be able to protect themselves and their families from the pandemic because they have no access to water.

Read the full media release here.

For more news and our news archives click here, or here to access our collection of media items.

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