South Durban urged to complain about air pollution

AT a community meeting hosted by the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) residents were urged not to back down in the fight for cleaner air in South Durban.

About 40 people attended an air quality workshop on Wednesday, 28 August at the Austerville community hall in Wentworth, where air quality experts discussed the perils of living in the area and the options available to residents for fighting back.

Local resident, Violet Bransby: “Everything is covered in black soot. Why should we bother trying to make our homes look presentable if they are constantly covered in this pollution?”

According to Rico Euriphidou from groundwork: “The soot called carbon black, which arises from high combustion (more than 1,000°C), comes from cars, trucks and industry. The particular soot in this area can be traced to industry because it consists of fine particles. This must be reported if anything is to change.”

He said it is clear people still believe there is a problem in the South Durban Basin (SDB). “Wind usually blows from south-east or south-west in Durban in summer, dispersing pollution. In winter, however when the wind is calmer, we see the impact of pollution on the SDB.

The Air Quality Act (93 of 2004) is very clear about air quality and how people should be punished if they are unlawful, however, what we believe to be unhealthy is different to what these industries or the municipality believes.”

In a graph depicting the pollution rates in the SDB for the whole of 2009, the South African standard is shown to be higher than the peak pollution rates recorded in winter, but the world standard is well below; lower than some of the SA’s lowest levels. The standard shows where pollution levels should be to allow people to live healthy lives.

Pollution stats in Durban.
Pollution stats in Durban.

“The government has put the levels so high because we are a developing country and should therefore favour and preserve jobs and allow big industries to adapt to pollution levels over time. If we knew how much it costs to deal with people who are affected by pollution, they might change their mind.”

The consensus of the gathering was that people were finally becoming aware of the problem, which has affected them for so many years, but many are slow to react for fear of job loss if big industries in the area are troubled.

Local, Jean Fynn who has been running a home for children with Aids, said: “I have been complaining but nothing is happening. There are so few people here today, yet everyone complains about the problem. We should be standing together.”

Rico and the members of the SCDEA suggest residents keep complaining. An inundation of complaints is what they believe will spark action within the municipality.

Bongani speaks to the assembly about reporting pollution.
Bongani speaks to the assembly about reporting pollution.

Bongani showed the assembly the SDCEA’s new ‘pollution complaint log’ sheets, which are available at SDCEA’s offices. He urged residents to fill in a complaint every time they had a problem with air pollution. “You should also contact the Health Department and log a formal complaint. The log number should then be added to the complaint log, so we can follow up on it. If more people complain more often, the municipality might be more willing to take action. If we sit idly by, nothing will be done,” said the SDCEA’s Bongani Mthembu.

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