groundWork (Friends of the Earth South Africa)


Monday, 27 July 2015, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa – Award-winning South African documentary The Bliss of Ignorance [1] will be officially launched online today making it widely available for public access. The new groundWork [2] and Friends of the Earth International [3] film investigates South Africa's complex relationship with one of the country's most abundant resources: coal.

Experts are predicting the creation of a 'sick' generation in the Mpumalanga Highveld region, which is home to 12 of the world's largest power stations. This documentary looks at the impact of South Africa's energy policy - particularly the support for Eskom, the state’s energy utility’s reliance on coal-fired power stations - on public health.

The documentary has already won prestigious awards at two different film festivals in Indonesia. These are: the International Award of Outstanding Excellence for Documentary Short at the International Film Festival (Environment, Health and Culture), and Platinum Award for International Documentary at the World Film Awards [4].

At the time of production, Eskom was awaiting decision from the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) on the utility’s application for the majority of its coal-fired power stations in the Mpumalanga Highveld to be exempt from complying with stricter ambient air emission standards.

These standards that were put in place by the DEA to protect people from heavy air pollution came into effect in April this year. In February 2015, however, Eskom were granted five years grace from complying with these atmospheric emission standards, making this film ever more timely and relevant.

Last week, groundWork together with the Highveld Environmental Justice Network [5] took the isiZulu version of the documentary into communities in Witbank, Middelburg and Ermelo to engage with Highveld, which as the documentary indicates are the ones most affected by the pollution from Eskom and the coal industry.

Set against the wider climate change debate, The Bliss of Ignorance highlights how the mining and burning of coal affects the environment; polluting air and valuable water resources in a water-scarce country. In 2012, 17,000 people in Carolina, Mpumalanga were left without water because their local supply was polluted by acid mine drainage.



[1] To view the full length documentary visit
[2] groundWork is an environmental justice organisation working with community people from around South Africa, and increasingly Southern Africa, on environmental justice and human rights issues focusing on Coal, Climate and Energy Justice, Waste and Environmental Health. groundWork is the South African member of Friends of the Earth International
[3] Friends of the Earth International is the world's largest grassroots environmental federation with 75 national member groups in 73 countries and more than 2 million members and supporters
[4] For more information on the awards The Bliss of Ignorance has already picked up, visit the following sites respectively and
[5] The Highveld Environmental Justice Network (HEJN) is a voluntary association that joins together various non-governmental movements and organisations within the Highveld Air Priority Area fighting for people’s right to a clean and healthy environment, in an area that is well-known for its high levels of pollution as a result of the coal and other industries.


Megan Lewis
Media and Communications Campaigner, groundWork
Tel (w): +27 (0) 33 342 5662
Tel (m): +27 (0) 83 450 5541
(Megan Lewis will be on leave from 1 – 23 August 2015)

Robby Mokgalaka
Coal Campaigner, groundWork
Tel (w): +27 (0) 33 342 5662
Tel (m): +27 (0) 73 774 3362

Bobby Peek
Director, groundWork
Tel (w): +27 (0) 33 342 5662
Tel (m): 82 464 1383