South Durban Communities Establish New Air Monitoring Program Aimed at Massive Industrial Pollution Clean-up - Committee to Track Pollution Incidents, Test Air and Publish Results.

11 January 2002 - Communities in the heavily polluted South Duran Basin yesterday announced an intensive new program to map and monitor toxic industries that contribute to serious health problems in the area. The new program will enlist impacted community members to compile pollution logs and take air samples over the next year. A committee of residents was formed to take immediate action after an intensive 2-day workshop in South Durban over the weekend.

“South Durban is taking action immediately to expand air monitoring efforts by gathering evidence of illegal and unhealthy pollution that threatens the health of thousands of children and adults everyday,” said Desmond D’Sa, long time resident In South Durban, and Chairperson of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA). “We can no longer wait for government and industry to act on their promises; enough is enough!”

Over the weekend, residents were trained on a variety of evidence gathering tactics to document hazardous pollution in their neighborhoods. They will use proven procedures of log books, photographs, video and “bucket air sampling” to collect evidence of toxic spills, smoking flares, explosions and fires that plague South Durban. The group plans to publish monthly reports on air pollution and toxic releases in local papers to educate the community of the health threats.

Residents also went out on an air patrol through the South Durban area, and visited the Sasol Fibres plant, the Shell/BP oil refinery (SAPREF) and the Industrial Oil Processes plant. Residents witnessed and smelled first hand pollution from these industries. Practice air samples were taken around these plants.

Over the next few weeks, groundWork and local groups will host a series of community workshops in South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland in a total of six polluted communities, home to thousands people. The air-monitoring program is a partnership of groundWork, SAEPEJ and new non-profit organisation Global Community Monitor (GCM), which is directed by the innovator of the Bucket Brigade program, Denny Larson.

“This new expansion of communities’ right to know throughout Southern Africa is in direct response to the failure of industry and governments to monitor and clean up toxic pollution that trespasses into fence-line communities,” said Ardiel Soeker of groundWork. “The new Bucket Brigade effort will be reaching thousands of families for the first time so that they can demand clean air.”

Cooperation on the Air Quality Project will provide groundWork and its partnering organisations in Southern Africa with an additional tool (the bucket brigade) to assess the air quality in their -communities, develop community based monitoring systems and to increase the skills and knowledge of community representatives to negotiate with government and industry for the improvement in community air quality. GCM will assist groundWork and local community organizations in developing community based monitoring systems in each of the above areas for community members.

“The success of the South Africa Bucket Brigade has increased the demand for community air monitoring around the globe,” said Denny Larson of GCM. “Now communities in the developing world want to know what they are breathing and how to get corporations to clean up their act.”

The 2002 air monitoring initiative seeks to build on the success of the previous Bucket Brigade effort in 2000, and expand the power of industrial communities in environmental decision-making. By providing the tools and training to communities suffering from toxic pollution overload, they can establish community environmental protection systems.

For more information contact: Ardiel Soeker (groundWork) or Denny Larson (GCM) on 021-761 8669 or Bobby Peek (groundWork) 082 464 1383.

Global Community Monitor offers key technical assistance to industrial communities worldwide to contribute to the growing counter-globalization movement. Through direct community-to-community trainings, the global movement will be strengthened as a result of local capacity building. GCM seeks to link similar communities to their counterparts globally, in their common struggle to hold corporations accountable to the lofty principles used to polish their image, especially oil and chemical companies - see www.gcmonitor.org

groundWork seeks to improve the quality of life of vulnerable people in South Africa (and potentially Southern Africa) through assisting civil society to have a greater impact on environmental governance.

SAEPEJ is a Boston-based non-profit organization which focuses on the effects of toxics and the deteriorating environment on the health and daily lives of communities in South Africa, and aims to bridge communities in the US with their counterparts in South Africa around environmental justice see http://www.igc.org/saepej/