Photo credit: Source: Eyewitness News. - Photo: 2018

South Africa Needs Tackling Air Pollution Hot Spots Urgently

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK (IDN) – The world’s largest air pollution hotspot is not where you might think. No, it’s not in New Jersey. But if you said South Africa you’d be right, according to a newly-released study by the environmental group Greenpeace.

With coal and transport as the two principal sources of air pollution, Eastern Mpumalanga province in South Africa has the most polluting cluster of coal-fired power stations in the world, producing record levels of nitrogen dioxide, according to the Greenpeace report.

Mpumalanga borders Mozambique and is the hub of South Africa’s coal industry with 12 coal-fired plants that supply the grid with 32 gigawatts.

“The most up-to-date satellite imagery from June to August this year clearly shows that when you look at just one pollutant, which is nitrogen dioxide, Mpumalanga is the worst hotspot in the world,” Melita Steele, senior climate and energy campaign manager for Greenpeace Africa, said in a statement.

Nitrogen oxides (NOx) – including NO2 – are estimated to cause many thousands of premature deaths worldwide every year.

Although South Africa adopted tough climate targets with the National Climate Change Response White Paper in 2011 and is a signatory to the Paris Climate Change agreement, implementation has been slow.

The study found that plumes of dangerous NO2 pollution also regularly cover nearby Johannesburg and Pretoria because of their close proximity and regular headwinds.

“We found that there are nearly 2 200 premature deaths (annually) that come from this air pollution. You are looking at respiratory problems… heart diseases (and) lung cancer – it’s a very scary outline,” it said.

Now, environmental groups are attempting to block another coal mining project imposed by state officials in a protected area in Mpumalanga.

The case has been brought by the Center for Environmental Rights representing eight groups looking to set aside the permission granted in 2016 by former mines minister Mosebenzi Zwane and the late Environment minister Edna Molewa to allow coal mining in a protected area

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization under the newly appointed director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is holding its first Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health: from October 30 to November 1 in Geneva.

“Polluted air is poisoning millions of children and ruining their lives,” said the WHO director general. [IDN-InDepthNews – 30 October 2018]

Photo credit: Source: Eyewitness News.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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