Minister promises action on implementation of New Air Quality Bill

Pietermaritzburg, 7 September 2004 - Minister of Environment and Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk presented the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Bill to the National Parliament in Cape Town today. The Minister is big on implementation and has promised that a review of all present industrial APPA [1] permits will be made in the next six months.

“This is a positive step. We will hold the Minister and the Department accountable for delivery on this promise,” says Ardiel Soeker.

groundWork with community partners throughout South Africa will use this legislation to hold government accountable to the constitutional promises. We still seek to continue to fight to implement the Bill and call for improvement of the Bill where it fails the community and when implementation fails. groundWork will continue to highlight pollution hotspots and dirty industry.

The energy sector and in particular, the petrochemical industry commands huge amounts of resources and political clout. The new legislation’s intention is to give effect to our constitutional right to a clean and healthy environment, and to protect communities from the pollution from these multi-national corporations.

However, industries like Sasol, Eskom, Iscor, Engen, Caltex, Shell, BP, Foskor, Mondi, Samancor, Hillside and Bayside Aluminum and others stand in opposition to the successful implementation of the Bill and their political influence over decision makers will reduce the chances of proper oversight.

groundWork, in partnership with communities living next to these polluting industries have for a long time been calling on Government to replace outdated Apartheid legislation with more progressive legislation that protects people’s health and the environment. The promulgation of the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Bill into an Act is a victory for fence line communities.

However, the war against pollution and holding corporations accountable cannot be won by legislation alone. The Minster in his statements that “new laws do not make for blue skies” has confirmed this.

The recent incidents at the Sasol operations are an indication of how the strive for profits lead to the deaths and injuries of workers and community people. This cannot happen and must not happen in a democracy like ours. Sasol’s operating profit today as announced by the CEO Pieter Cox is 25 million rand per day.

“The Minister promises that the Green Scorpions will take action – start with Sasol!” says Ardiel Soeker of groundWork.

For more information contact groundWork – 033 342 5662 or 082 464 1383

[1] Air Pollution Prevention Act of 1965