16 June 2014 at 10:17 pm
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
This week, a team of CER attorneys, campaigners from our partners groundWork, Greenpeace, the Mining and Environmental Justice Network for South Africa, and local environmental rights activists will be visiting key areas on the Highveld: Emalahleni (Witbank), Middelburg, Hendrina and Belfast. The team will visit key sites, meet with local residents and activists, and distribute information about environmental rights and remedies.
The people and natural resources of the Mpumalanga Highveld bear a heavy burden for the rest of South Africa. Home to almost all of Eskom’s coal-fired power stations, major major industrial facilities like Sasol Synfuels in Secunda and Evraz Highveld Steel & Vanadium outside Emalahleni, and a significant concentration of opencast coal mines (see the MTPA map below), air quality on the Highveld has long been of great concern. In 2007, the Highveld was the second area in the country to be declared an air pollution priority area under the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act. Of particular health concern are fallout dust (TSP), thoracic dust (PM10 and PM2.5), NOx and SO2. Yet despite persuasive international evidence of the significant health cost of these pollutants, there has been distressingly little public or private research undertaken on the impacts of air pollution levels on the health of residents of the Highveld.
Water quality and quantity are also major challenges on the Mpumalanga Highveld. The 2nd Edition National Water Resource Strategy released last year calls the Olifants Water Management Area (into which parts of Mpumalanga and Limpopo fall) one of the country’s most stressed catchments ion terms of both water quality and quantity. In the latest update in April 2014, the Blue Drop system for drinking water implemented by the Department of Water Affairs failed to give the whole of the Nkangala District Municipality (home to Delmas, Emalahleni, Middelburg, Hendrina, and Dullstroom) a clean bill of health – either due to non-compliance or insufficient monitoring.
We will be posting more about our experience this week on our website, Facebook and Twitter. During this period, we will also be joined by a journalist from online community newspaper GroundUp, so you can also follow those stories for an independent view on our work this week.
Our team will be available for local media interviews during the week. Please email [email protected] or text or call 072 306 8888.