Govt needs to be tough on air polluters - Mabudafhasi

Monday, October 29, 2012

Rusteburg - Air pollution is still a scourge confronting South Africa, says Water and Environmental Affairs Deputy Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi.

"It's a serious challenge. We know we are a developing country. Industrially, South Africa is developing very fast and all of this is polluting our air and that is why we need to have measures in place to control all of this," Mabudafhasi told SANews on Monday on the side-lines of the annual air quality governance lekgotla in Rustenburg, North West.

Government, she stressed, needed to be tough on air polluters.

"Mining and industrial regions such as the North West and Gauteng are developing very fast and that's why we are targeting them."

Mabudafhasi said government used the lekgotla in various provinces to raise awareness on the importance of air quality, something she said was in line with the country's climate response policy approved by Cabinet earlier this year.

South Africans, particularly those living in urban areas, needed to know the importance of clean air and the consequences of air pollution.

"It's our activities that lead to pollution. If we were not busy trying to develop, we wouldn't have pollution but the reality is that we have to develop as country but at the same time, have all of these necessary checks and balances to protect our citizens," said Mabudafhasi.

Government declared the North West province a national priority area in terms of air quality. The deputy minister said this was done to assist government to make informed decisions and develop the necessary interventions and focus resources towards the areas of concern.

The industrial sector is said to be the prime contributor to air pollution. More than 90% of South Africa's electricity is generated from the combustion of coal that contains approximately 1.2% sulphur and up to 45% ash. Experts say coal combustion can lead to particulate matter in the air, as well as contribute to acid rain.

Mabudafhasi told an audience of about 200 people who attended the conference on Monday that various measures were being developed to assist government enforce the Air Quality Act "to protect people's constitutional right to clean air".

The Act also provides all spheres of government, including municipalities, with regulatory powers to implement their constitutional air quality governance functions.

She said air quality management manuals were also developed to assist all the authorities in their development of air quality management plans as demanded by the department's mandate.

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