National Environmental Management: Air Quality Bill: briefing

Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


1 October 2003

Chairperson: Rev P Moatshe (ANC) [North-West]

Relevant Documents
National Environmental Management: Air Quality Bill Powerpoint Presentation
Draft National Environmental Management: Air Quality Bill

The Acting Deputy Director General: Environment Quality and Protection informed the Committee on the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Bill. Members were concerned that municipalities would see it as a priority when budgeting. The committee decided to refer the Bill to legal advisors to check on constitutionality.

Mr Peter Lukey, Acting Deputy Director General: Environment Quality and Protection, briefed the Portfolio Committee on the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Bill. His presentation highlighted the purpose and importance of each chapter of the Bill. The Portfolio Committee was pleased that the Bill had finally been brought before them. They were concerned as to whether municipalities would see it as a priority when budgeting. The committee also felt the need to refer the Bill to legal advisors to check on the Bills constitutionality

Please refer to attached presentation.

Ms PC Majodina (ANC) [Eastern Cape] felt that quality had to go together with development. She saw no evidence that there had been consultation with the unions and the mining industry. She also questioned how this would be balanced with the people in the deep rural areas who emitted smoke when burning wood.

Mr Lukey, said that the department had embarked on a series of workshops for the public and tour events with civil societies and trade unions since 1997. The implications of cooking in the rural areas were different from cooking fires in Soweto, where at times cheap coal was used. The quality of air in the rural areas was fantastic and people could not be penalised if they had no choice but to use wood as fuel. Mining pollutions were of greater concern because of the dust levels that did not meet ambient quality standards.

Mr A Van Niekerk (NNP) [Northern Cape] stated that he was not clear on the financial implications to the state, particularly if the Bill was citing more than R85 million as implementation costs. How was the budget going to be distributed to the provinces and to local government, as this was not visible in the Bill?

Mr Lukey explained that without the issuing of atmospheric emission licences a priority area could be triggered. In cross boundary situations the joint MECs could jointly declare the area as a priority area. The costing aspect was one that could have specific funding for a particular priority area.

Mr EC Conroy (NNP) [Gauteng] felt that the R85, 019 million of the implementation of the proposed Act should rather be a National cost. Would veld fires in Gauteng be considered as accidental pollution or purposeful pollution?

Mr Lukey said the Forest Fires Act addressed veld fires. If they caused pollution, the department would have to step in. He further explained that the R85 million was arrived at by taking into account average figures given the industrial densities and provinces. The political will was evidently great in Cape Town as it had the largest budget.

Mr Windvoel (ANC) [Mpumalanga] concluded that by implication, it meant that provinces had to budget on their own for implementation. He sought clarity on the definition of an offensive odour, and wanted to check the distinction seeing that what may be an offensive odour might not be offensive to the next person. He also requested the department to comment about how far they had taken National Treasury, Provinces and Local Government on board.

Mr Lukey said that the Minister had committed himself to approaching National Treasury

Mr RM Nyakane (UDM) [Limpopo] referred to the sewage and the process to its finality. Bacterial influence was important. If stanzas were put down for control, to eradicate the smell, the ecosystem would be disturbed. He also sought clarity on standards and norms in term of human tolerance?

Mr Lukey explained that the last thing they wanted to do was to move away from natural to chemical remedies for sewages as they were trying to reduce green house gas. The Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act , (APPA) 19965 (Act 445 of 1965) was a nationally based legislation yet constitutionally it was the responsibility of provinces and local government. The setting of standards was fully informed by scientific information referred to in acceptable guidelines published in 2002 on sulphur dioxide. Human beings could take on sulphur dioxide more than plants could. Stricter standards needed to be based on ecological needs as well. In reality there was no correct number for ambit air.

Ms B Thompson (ANC) [KwaZulu-Natal] stated that some of the municipalities would not prioritise the issue of quality as compared to water and electricity. She said she too would personally tolerate any odours. She mentioned the controlling of fires for roadside business as a cause for concern.

Mr Lukey pointed out that one needed to consider how much bad sanitation impacted on health and safety, and its social costs to the nation. The idea was not to penalise the poor, and their contribution was minimal compared to some industrial business companies.

Mr M Sulliman (ANC) [Northern Cape] asked what the criterion was of becoming an Air Quality Officer in view of each municipality having to have one. It would mean an extra burden seeing that there were also district municipalities and they would also need to employ an air quality officer. He highlighted that the Department had not covered fuel consumption.

The Chairperson agreed and referred to chapter 4: Air Quality Management; Part 3 Controlled Emitter, and requested the Department to elaborate on the pollution caused for example by motor vehicles.

Mr Lukey said that continuous advances were being made towards the usage of gas vehicles. He conceded that vehicles of fuel consumption and the pollution of these motor vehicles did not often come up, yet it was one of the major forms of pollution; and this needed specific attention. In responding about the Air Quality Officer, Mr Lukey explained that the qualifications of this officer would be treated as a designation on an existing post where the level of burden personally and telephonically would be targeted and directed to. The Bill provided for progressive implementation. The Air Quality Officer did not need to be an Air Quality Manager, however, trained personnel in this competency would be required.

Ms E C Gouws (DA) [Eastern Cape] pointed out that currently there were only five air quality managers that looked after the country.

Mr Lukey responded that there was no specific air quality management course in the country. This would be anchored, and school leavers would be encouraged to start looking at this area in terms of a future career.

Ms Thompson said that the Department often did not involve them in their hearings and workshops yet these activities were part of the Portfolio Committees battle as well. She requested that the Department involve them in their campaigns as this was their area of expertise.

Ms Majodina asked whether the definition of noise was air or ear pollution. She also noted that the Bill only mentioned government bodies and not industries and trade unions. Mr Lukey said that although the logic was dubious, noise in the Bill because of policy

The Chairperson raised concerns about areas in Soweto in winter and the smoke that was emitted.

Mr Lukey agreed that in winter the underprivileged had dark cloud hanging up above them from the cheap and dirty coal, which was often the only source of fuel to the urban poor. At least the rural poor used wood.

Mr Windvoel noted that there was a trend to moving to diesel, and asked which was the worst pollutant.
He was told the way to go was to use unleaded petrol. Diesel manufacturers believed it could be cleaned up to produce the least amount of pollution.

The Committee resolved to get legal advisors to check the legality of the Bill.

The meeting was adjourned.


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