"Ours is not perception, environmental injustice and racism is a reality" - A peoples' memorandum to the 8th World Congress on Environmental Health

23 February 2004 - We the residents representing civic organisations of south Durban (Wentworth, Isipingo, Bluff, Merebank), Clare Estate, Richards Bay, Pietermaritzburg, Chatsworth, Sydenham, Potchefstroom, Table View (Cape Town), Sasolburg, Boipatong and Secunda gathered, at John Dunn Hall, to share our experiences and suffering as a result of industrial pollution in south Durban over the week-end of February 21-22, prior to the 8th World Congress on Environmental Health.

We have also heard from researchers who, through their research, have shared and confirmed our concerns.

We take note of the reality that:

Multi-national industrial corporations (MNC's) in South Africa, many of whom have exhibitions at the Congress, are:-

The national, provincial and local government is:-

Noting the above, we hereby call upon the conscience of more than 600 environmental health academics, researchers, practitioners and government representatives, and of those industrial people attending the Congress to:-

We call on the SA government:

Finally, we call on government and industry to pay reparations to those affected and are suffering from the polluting practices of MNC's.

For more information:

S. (Bobby) Peek - 082 464 1 383, groundWork,
Desmond D,Sa - 083 982 6939, SDCEA

End notes:

[1] Sasol releases more than 400 000 tons of volatile organic compounds into the environment annually at their plants in Secunda; Shell/BP have leaked more than 1 million litres of petrol under community houses and more than 26 tons of tetra ethyl lead next to community houses. For more information Click here to download the Air Monitoring Report.

[2] Instead of Shell/BP replacing their leaking pipelines in south Durban, they are spending millions of rands on social assessment, to find ways of spending their "social investment" in the south Durban community.

[3] An example: the eThekwini (Durban) City Council unwillingness to hold Shell/BP accountable for their continual violations of the communities' environments. The eThekwini (Durban) Mayor is central to this in calling for the reconsideration of the legal action by his health department against Shell/BP.

[4] White et al, 2003 (University of Cape Town) and Robins et al 2002 (Michigan University - USA), have done studies in areas around the Caltex Refinery in Cape Town Refinery, and the Engen and Shell/BP refineries in south Durban respectively and have linked the pollution from these industries with impacts on learners in local schools.

[5] Following are ten major shortcomings in the Bill that need to be addressed urgently:

  1. The Bill fails to focus on the improvement of health.
  2. No timeframes are stipulated for the setting of ambient air pollution standards or for the development of a national framework for air quality management.
  3. Emission standards, which minimise pollution that comes out of the chimneys and pipes of industry, are not guaranteed.
  4. Local municipalities bear the brunt of monitoring air pollution and holding large multinational industries accountable for their air pollution.
  5. If, by chance, the Minister does recognise that an area needs special attention because of air pollution (i.e. is declared a priority area), it will take more than two years before action is proposed to reduce the pollution, and even then the proposed action may be contested by industry.
  6. In these priority areas it is not guaranteed that industry will have to comply with emission standards.
  7. The licence to operate a facility does not require that the authorities regulate against the very many industrial incidents that result in abnormal pollution being dumped on the community.
  8. There is no specific information system developed to collect information to understand and monitor industrial pollution.
  9. The Bill allows polluting industries that currently have temporary, conditional licences, to convert these into final licences without changing their polluting technology.
  10. The Minister may allow exemptions to some industries to allow them to pollute.