Damning report on Highveld air pollution
Publish date: 10 October 2017
Issue Number: 528
Diary: Legalbrief Environmental
People on the Highveld are dying prematurely and suffering from respiratory and cardiac illnesses because of the government’s controversial non-enforcement of minimum emission standards for Eskom and Sasol. According to a News24 report, this is one of the findings released last week in a damning report by the Centre for Environmental Rights, groundWork and the Highveld Environmental Justice Network. In 2007 the Minister of Environmental Affairs declared 31 000km² of the heavily-polluted Mpumalanga Highveld a priority area in terms of the Air Quality Act. The Highveld Priority Area (HPA) was created because, as the Department of Environmental Affairs said at the time, ‘people living and working in these areas do not enjoy air quality that is not harmful to their health and well-being’. In 2015 however, Eskom and Sasol were permitted postponements of compliance with minimum emission standards. According to the report, this makes it significantly less likely that air pollution in the area will be reduced. It estimates that Eskom’s power stations alone cause 2 239 deaths a year, 94 680 days of asthma symptoms, 9 533 cases of bronchitis in children, 996 628 lost working days, nearly 4m days of restricted activity, all at a cost of R28bn a year. The report calls for effective compliance monitoring, the strengthening of monitoring institutions and transparency in dealings with the department. At the department’s Air Quality Lekgotla, protesters handed in an executive summary of the report listing the demands of the groups represented.