Friday 25 May 2012 - People empowered to prove reality of air pollution
groundWork, Friends of the Earth South Africa

 Middelburg, South Africa, 25 May 2012 – Winter has arrived in the Highveld resulting in increased burning of fossil fuels by people for cooking and spatial heating as electricity is unaffordable. On 20 May, groundWork trained local community members to use various air sampling devices to test the air quality within their homes during a time when air pollution is at its worst.

 The Department of Environmental Affairs has over the years vigorously promoted the Basa njengoMagogo method of burning coal in the home, and when people do not have Basa they use other coal burning stoves. The tests will be carried out by community members using MiniVol and B-TEX samplers within their homes across the winter period in the Highveld. These tests aim to demonstrate the state of air pollution in households in the Highveld during the winter period so that communities are empowered to use this information to lobby government to provide better them with energy solutions.

According to groundWork's environmental health campaigner and scientist, Rico Euripidou, "community reliance on indoor burning of fossil fuels for cooking and spatial heating in South Africa's heartland of electricity generation is an injustice. It adds an unnecessary health burden on communities already faced with massive existing environmental pollution from Eskom and big industries in the area. The Highveld has been out of compliance for particulate matter (PM) over the whole region over the previous three winter periods".

 The Highveld has been declared an Air Quality Priority Area by the Minister of Environmental Affairs because ambient air quality standards are being exceeded here and these conditions are causing a negative impact on the environment and on the health of people living here. The National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act means that South Africa has standards for outdoor air pollution but not for indoor air pollution.

 Prior to this day of training, groundWork facilitated a two day workshop in Middelburg on the 18 and 19 May with representatives from over 15 communities in the Highveld.

Community members engaged on issues related to energy, mining, water and air pollution. Whilst energy producing industries provided some employment for people in the area, the general consensus was that people's lives had been impacted upon in a way that meant they now live unsustainably. The use of domestic energy methods and industries that pollute the environment and people's health was paralleled with the government allowing more power stations to be built. Health problems will rise as a result but local communities will not receive affordable access to electricity or sustainable energy sources.

Thomas Mnguni of Greater Middleburg Resident's Association stated that "Eskom's planned electricity pricing increases impact heavily on us and after Eskom's makes its increase, the municipalities also add their own increase. So, there is no way that Kusile power plant is being built to alleviate poverty. Instead, the rich and industry benefit and we are left with the pollution to our air, water and lungs".

 CONTACTS:
For queries related to air quality issues, contact the following groundWork staff:

Siziwe Khanyile, Air Quality and Climate Justice and Energy Campaigns Manager at 033 342 5662 or siziwe@groundwork.org.za

Rico Euripidou, Environmental Health Campaign Manager at 033 342 5662 or rico@groundwork.org.za

 For queries related to media, contact:

Megan Lewis, 033 342 5662/083 450 5541 or megan@groundwork.org.za

 For queries related to community issues, contact:

Thomas Mnguni, Greater Middelburg Resident's Association at 072 449 5655 or greatermiddelburgra@gmail.com

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.