24 April 2012 - Community workshop exposes real impact of Medupi

Lephalale, Limpopo Province, South Africa – groundWork [1] facilitated a workshop attended by over 80 people at the Mogol Club in Onverwacht on Saturday 21 April 2012 to assist community members to voice concerns related to the world's third largest coal-fired power plant, Medupi.

This is the basis for groundWork's work with the community in this area, as the organisation has been involved in monitoring and challenging the World Bank's loan to Eskom for the development of Medupi from the beginning. groundWork, together with the community and other NGOs, challenged the World Bank and called for the intervention of the World Bank Inspection Panel (IP).

Siziwe Khanyile, Air Quality campaign manager for groundWork, stated: "Even though the community is situated next to coal fired power stations, they do not have access to electricity and have to suffer from the environmental and health impacts. The electricity generated by these plants is not for the people but rather for industry who receive it cheaply. This is an environmental injustice."

Before the loan was given by the World Bank to Eskom, various issues were highlighted including concerns about water availability, health impacts, cultural and heritage issues, impacts from increased mining, impacts of sand mining, climate change and a host of other concerns.

The Inspection Panel, after their review of the World Bank loan to Eskom and issues on the ground, reported [2] that the World Bank had overlooked these various issues before approving the loan, such as the challenge of availability of the water supply, that air quality and climate change challenges were not adequately assessed and the issues of influx of labour, poverty and other local social impacts.

Martha Molapo , member from a local community organization and organizer of the workshop raised a concern that dates back to the 1980s and 1990s: "When people were forcibly removed during the apartheid era, their graves were removed and this continues to happen as a result of developments such as Medupi and the mines. The cultural and heritage aspects of the community are not considered by Eskom and other industries".

Those community members who came to the workshop were from Marapong, Shongoane, Onverwacht, Bangalong, Sefitlhogo, Seleka, Abbotspoort, Ditloung and Steenbokpan highlighted the environmental and social justice challenges that they face in their respective communities. These included, extended electricity cut-offs in Marapong where people live a stone's throw from coal fire power plants, lack of skills and employment (despite Eskom promoting Medupi with the promise of jobs), increased traffic, waste, opening of new mines and water issues.

These problems are also exacerbated as a result of the town's infrastructure not being able to support developments such as Medupi and other industry developments. Discussions were held on environmental justice issues – water and mining impacts – evident in the Lephalale area. 

Present air quality will deteriorate, thus impacting upon health issues as a result of pollution from mining and Medupi – that will not have the necessary sulphur abatement technologies. The World Bank Board will make a decision on the IP report on the 22 May 2012. End

CONTACTS:

For more information on this workshop and the work that groundWork does on these issues, contact: Siziwe Khanyile at 073 830 8173 or siziwe@groundwork.org.za

For media related queries, contact: Megan Lewis at 083 450 5541 or intern@groundwork.org.za

Footnotes:

[1) groundWork is an environmental justice organization working with community people from around South Africa and increasingly in Southern Africa on environmental justice and human rights issue focusing on Air Pollution, Waste and Environmental Health. groundWork is a member of Friends of the Earth International.

[2] See press release here.

Read the story in the Northern News ...