Around the mid-19th century South Africa saw a boom in the extraction of fossil fuels such as coal, but while it has become a necessary resource to keep the country going for the next couple of decades, the South African Civil Society Information Service says that something has to be done urgently about the high levels of pollution, before it’s too late.

It claims that South Africa is the world’s 27th largest economy yet is the 12th highest CO2 emitter.

“Our incredibly carbon intensive economy burns its way through an estimated 190 million tonnes of coal per annum to power the economy. On top of this we export around 70 million tonnes of coal per year to the rest of the world, mainly to Europe, China and India,” it says in a blog post.

The post goes on to detail how Eskom is the world’s fifth largest electricity company and one of the world’s top three polluters through its continued reliance on coal to fuel its power stations.

Read an extract from the post here:

These two world-class emitters of climate-changing carbon dioxide also spew out a soup of polluting compounds, including sulphur, nitrous oxide and particulates, each linked to specific negative health and environmental impacts. Other noxious chemicals included in this brew include radically toxic substances like cadmium, chromium, lead, barium and mercury.

To compound the problem these emissions are released over South Africa’s interior plateau, where they are trapped by atmospheric temperature inversions, especially during the cold winter months, which causes dangerous concentrations of noxious compounds. A recent visit to Johannesburg reminded me of just how bad this problem has become, with the city barely visible from Sandton, a few miles away. Yet the pollution in Jo’burg is not nearly as bad as hotspots like Witbank in Mpumalanga, which EU scientists have found to be amongst the worst in the world, exceeding even China’s infamous pollution levels.

South Africa’s environmental legislation arises out of Section 24 of the Constitution, which promises citizens the right to a healthy environment by, amongst other things, legislating against pollution. The National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) is the keystone environmental legislation. It was promulgated in 1997, after a comprehensive consultation process. It has led to further legislation to specifically address the worsening scourge of air pollution.

The National Environmental Management Air Quality Act, or NEM:AQA was years in the making and was finally promulgated in 2004. Regulations only came into effect in 2010, again after extensive consultation with industry, including Sasol and Eskom. All major industrial emitters were fully informed of the process and were well aware that they would have to comply with this legislation.

Now, more than a decade since the Air Quality Act was passed, Eskom and Sasol have applied for exemption from having to comply with the new clear air regulations. This utterly unacceptable situation indicates a profound duplicity, by firstly delaying the relevant legislation and its regulations through extended negotiations and then going on to insist that it would be too expensive to comply. These tactics are nothing more than an unconscionable attempt to delay the inevitable, while simultaneously maximising revenue by externalising the true costs of their actions.

For the full text, visit the South African Civil Society Information Service’s post here.

[Source – SACSIS, Image – CC by 2.0/Aristocrats-hat]
Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.