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Responsible Investment only – is the rallying call from activists ahead of the SA Investment Conference

4 November 2019 at 2:00 pm

Environmental activists concerned about the environmental and health impacts of coal mining and pollution address an Open Letter to President Ramaphosa demanding that all investments meet the standards for responsible investment
Environmental activists concerned about the environmental and health impacts of coal mining and pollution address an Open Letter to President Ramaphosa demanding that all investments meet the standards for responsible investment

CAPE TOWN: In an open letter to the Presidency of Cyril Ramaphosa, activist lawyers, civil society and community organisations call on government leaders to consider the environmental and health impacts of extractive and pollutant industries ahead of the SA Investment Conference which gets underway in Johannesburg this week. They demand that only responsible investors be allowed to do business in South Africa and call for environmentally and socially sound investments that equally stimulates economic growth and development.

The activists highlight the importance of the SA Investment Conference especially as so many South Africans are unable to find dignified work, support their households and realise their potential, but they emphasise that these objectives and sustained economic growth can still be achieved without harming the health and well-being of people and negatively impacting the environment.

The activists state that there is an urgent need for government to respond to climate change impacts which include a serious water crisis across many parts of our country, as well as the health impacts of air and water pollution caused by coal mining and pollution and any investment decisions must take these impacts into account. “We are concerned about the drive for investment in South Africa which fails to acknowledge the impacts on the health of our environment and ultimately the health and food security of our people”, says Bafana Hltashwayo, of the Middleburg Environmental Justice Network.

A recent report by the Centre for Environmental Rights revealed how eight large coal mining companies specifically in Mpumalanga, are not complying with their water use licence conditions and take advantage of broken regulatory systems that lead to severe water pollution of the Upper Olifants Catchment.  The tragic impact of these failures is the effect of water pollution on the health of local communities who rely on polluted water for washing, bathing, cooking and drinking. “We are particularly concerned about the potential for investment in the coal industry”, – says Leanne Govindsamy head of CER’s Corporate Accountability Programme – “the industry uses massive amounts of water and has already contributed to pollution of vital catchment areas, while emissions from coal fired power stations are causing immense harm to people’s health and well-being. Our environment and our people can no longer sustain the impacts of the coal industry and we call on government to disallow any further investment in coal and instead to focus on investments in renewable sources of energy.” The open letter refers to President Ramaphosa’s statement to the UN Climate Summit in which he acknowledges the rapid fall in prices of renewable energy technologies as well as SA’s immense renewable energy resources, which he says, has created a massive opportunity to make a shift towards a carbon-neutral future.

Now more than ever, South Africa needs the enforcement of mining and existing water use laws and regulations which must supersede the urge to attract environmentally irresponsible profit-driven investments. “For far too long, coal companies have been allowed to pollute water resources, destroy people’s health, agricultural livelihoods and any chance for future generations to live on the land and enjoy fresh, clean air and water and health” added Thomas Mnguni, from groundWork.

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Notes to the editor:

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Section 24of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996

Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation; promote conservation; and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.

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