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Defining Moments of 2019: Battling the #DeadlyAir on the Mpumalanga Highveld

5 December 2019 at 11:29 am

Driven by our mission of working for an environment that is not harmful to health or well-being for present and future generations, the Centre for Environmental Rights has been supporting community groups and civil society organisations fighting air pollution in South Africa for nearly a decade. This year we started taking that battle to court.

In April 2019, on behalf of environmental justice group groundWork, we launched new litigation in the Pretoria High Court to set aside a government notice that doubled the limit for sulphur dioxide emissions from coal-boiler facilities without publication for comment, as required by law – particularly relevant for Eskom and Sasol, South Africa’s two largest polluters.

In May 2019, the new Environment Minister withdrew that unlawful notice and republished the proposal to double the SO2 limit for public comment. The Life After Coal campaign (groundWork, Earthlife Africa and CER) has again objected to this, relying on a new study that shows that such a doubling would cause thousands of deaths on the Highveld.

In June 2019, groundWork and local environmental justice group the Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action, represented by CER, launched what has become known as the Deadly Air litigation. This court application asks the High Court to declare that government has violated the Constitutional right to a healthy environment for the people living and working in the heavily polluted Mpumalanga Highveld Priority Area, and to develop implementation regulations to enforce the Highveld Priority Area Air Quality Management Plan. This ground-breaking case is expected to have important implications not only for people living on the Highveld, but also for other air quality priority areas in South Africa.

We will not rest until the people of South Africa are breathing air that is not harmful to their health and well-being.

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