Greenpeace calls for Govt action as Mpumalanga air ranks world’s dirtiest

Greenpeace calls for Govt actions as Mpumalanga air ranks world's dirtiest
BREATHING DEATH: Greenpeace Africa's latest report says Mpumalanga in the most polluted area in the world. PICTURE BY Waldo Swiegers/Sunday Times.

The province is home to a cluster of twelve coal fired power plants with a total capacity of over 32 gigawatts owned and operated by Eskom.

The South African government is being called to spring into action following a report that shows Mpumalanga’s air ranks as the world’s dirtiest.

The report by Greenpeace follows one released previously of eMalahleni air being the most polluted in the world.

The environmental lobby group says air pollution is a global health crisis and up to 95% of the world’s population is “breathing unsafe air”.

“Coal kills, and we strongly oppose any further postponements from complying with air quality regulations and demands that all coal-fired power stations that don’t comply with the existing air quality regulations be decommissioned on an accelerated timeline,” the group says.

South Africa is a significant global hotspot with its high concentration of coal power stations and has weak air pollution standards, it says.

“Our Government urgently needs to come up with an action plan that protects millions of people, instead of dirty coal power stations,” the group’s Melita Steele said.

“The government should also set up an action plan with concrete steps, measures and deadlines to make sure that air pollution levels in high priority areas comply with existing regulations,” she said.

Greenpeace wants the government to add no new coal-fired power stations in the national electricity plan and unit 5 and 6 of Kusile coal power plant to be cancelled.

Also they want 50 percent of current coal-fired power stations to be decommissioned by 2030 “in line with the IPCC Special Report on 1.5” .

The list of the largest air polluters in the world includes South Africa’s coal-fired power plants here in Mpumalanga, Germany and India, and a total of nine coal powered plants and industrial clusters in China.

Cities such as Santiago de Chile, London, Paris, Dubai and Tehran also feature high in the ranking due to transport-related emissions.

But compared to many other countries, South Africa is said to have weak Minimum Emission Standards.

All of Eskom’s coal-powered plants have been found to not comply with Minimum Emission Standards.

In 2015, Eskom was granted a five year postponement from complying with MES. In 2018, Eskom has again applied for postponements for nitrogen oxide compliance for 16 of its 19 power plants.

“Because South Africa’s coal-belts are hidden from view for the majority of South Africans, it can be easy to pretend that they don’t actually exist.

“The reality is that coal extraction and burning has devastating impacts on the people living in the area. This satellite data now confirms that there is nowhere to hide. Eskom’s coal addiction in Mpumalanga means that millions of people living in Johannesburg and Pretoria are also impacted by the pollution from coal, said Steele.

(edited by MLM)

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