Can we trust government! All talk no action!

24th June 2011 - Today, as Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, Rejoice Mabudafhasi visits Witbank, we call on her to make a definitive statement on what specific measures she is going to take to ensure that over the next four months of winter communities in the Highveld do not continue to suffer the same pollution fate as they did in 2010.

The Highveld is one of South Africa’s most polluted places. From May to August 2010, the South African ambient air pollution standards [1] were exceeded on 570 occasions. This is because the Highveld is home two of South Africa’s largest air pollution and greenhouse gas emitters, Eskom and Sasol [2]. These exceedences in air pollution standards impacts directly on peoples’ health and well-being, and in particular the poor who have to burn coal as a fuel source because they do not have access to affordable electricity for all their needs.

By sharing a platform with a major polluter such as Xstrata the Deputy Minister highlights to us where her priority lie – protecting the polluter rather than protecting community people who are suffering because of industrial pollution and a lack of safe and affordable energy which government fails to deliver. Instead of providing safe energy to people to ensure that they do not have to burn coal indoors, the Deputy Minister has been promoting the method of burning “clean fires” as the Department’s [3] official response which is a misnomer and forces people to continue burning coal indoors for their energy needs.

Government’s continued campaign of promoting “clean fires” based on the continued use of burning coal indoors as an energy source for heating and cooking rather than providing good insulated housing, and clean and affordable energy, demonstrates an unwillingness to address community challenges in a meaningful and integrated manner. Burning coal indoors adds to an already elevated industrial load of pollution and directly releases into people’s homes harmful and toxic chemicals such as volatile organic compounds, and continues to expose people to particulate emissions as well as releases greenhouse gasses. Over the last two days community people from Delmas, Middleburg and Witbank met to discuss climate change and the implementation of the Highveld Priority Area Air Quality Management Plan (HPA AQMP). The outcome is as follows.

We demand the following in terms of governments approach to climate change: -

Industrial pollution in the Highveld is currently disproportionate compared to household pollution and we demand the following in terms of the HPA AQMP:


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[1] Particulate Matter 10, Sulphur Dioxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, Ozone and Carbon Monoxide.

[2] Eskom has ten coal powers fires stations in the Highveld and Sasol’s Synfuel Secunda plant is the highest single global source of greenhouse gasses.

[3] See Press Release dated 09 June 2011 here ..