Air pollution is listed as one of the biggest problems on people’s health.
Greenpeace wants NUM to come engage with them on renewable energy strategies.
This is also a challenge put forward by the environmental lobby group to other unions after NUM called the group’s statement “reckless” for releasing a report that said Mpumalanga air was the dirtiest in the world.
In response, Greenpeace said people’s lives are at stake as a result of air pollution and that “can no longer be ignored”.
“It is particularly important for our children who are most vulnerable to the devastating health impacts of breathing polluted air,” Greenpeace said in a statement.
“People’s lives are on the line, and air pollution is clearly a public health crisis that can no longer be ignored,” Greenpeace Africa campaign manager Melita Steele said.
NUM had this week shot down a recent Greenpeace report that was calling on government “to set up an action plan with concrete steps” in dealing with the air pollution caused by coal-powered Eskom plants in the province.
NUM said this was an obvious campaign by the lobby group to push for the implementation of independent power producers (IPPs) resulting in job losses at the same time.
The union accused Greenpeace of pushing for the interests of rich people.
“If the power stations and coal mines are closed in Mpumalanga several towns including Witbank will be ghost towns,” the union’s Tshilidzi Mathavha said Monday this week.
“The reckless and impetuous statement is a clear campaign by Greenpeace Africa that the government should close power stations and coal mines in Mpumalanga,” said Mathavha, who is the NUM secretary in the Highveld region.
“If the power stations and mines are shut down‚ the economy of our country will collapse and the people will be left in darkness,” he said.
But Greenpeace wants the unions to come engage with them on renewable energy strategies.
Air pollution leads to a number of diseases, such as cancer and breathing difficulties.
It also leads to a range of long-term health conditions such as respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
“Exposing the truth about air pollution in South Africa is a must,” Steele said.
“What would be reckless would be to withhold information from the people of Mpumalanga,” she said.
“And to pretend that there are no alternatives,” said Steele.
According to WHO research, also released last week, 93% of the world’s under-15 population breathes in air that is “so polluted that it puts their health and development at serious risk”.
In 2016, air pollution killed 600 000 children around the world, and it is responsible for one in 10 deaths of children under the age of five, WHO said.
(edited by ZK)
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