Air Quality and Pollution:briefing

Tourism

11 September 2001
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

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This Report is a Contact Natural Resource Information Service
Taking Parliament to People, and People to Parliament

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The aim of this report is to summarise the main events at the meeting and identify the key role players. This report is not a verbatim transcript of proceedings.

ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
11 September 2001
AIR QUALITY AND POLLUTION: BRIEFING

Acting Chairperson:
Mr Kalako

Documents handed out:
Programme of Meeting on Air Quality and Pollution (Appendix 1)
Long Term Emission Strategy and Performance (Eskom)
The New Approach to Air Quality Management in South Africa (Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism)
Presentation on Air Pollution in SA (GroundWork)
Table View Residents Association Presentation (Table View Residents Association)
Refinery Managers Environmental Forum Presentation (Refinery Managers Environmental Forum)
[e-mail
info@pmg.org.za if the above documents are required.]

SUMMARY
The meeting focused on the issue of air quality and pollution. The presenters were from the Department, non-governmental organizations, and industry. The presenters from industry discussed the ways they were addressing air pollution prevention. The Department focused on future policy formulation in regard to air pollution and ensuring the maintenance of clean environments. GroundWork and Table View Residents Association delivered presentations on actual pollution incidents in the Table View and Durban areas and possible future approaches to the prevention of air pollution. The members of the Portfolio Committee were given an opportunity to ask questions and share their comments.

MINUTES
Long Term Emission Strategy and Performance
Ms V. Govender, from Eskom, stated that Eskom dealt with energy and had a strong reliance on coal. She elaborated by saying Eskom had a vision for the African continent whereby Eskom would provide electricity at low cost and in accordance with international standards. Eskom wished to reduce the emissions of dust and smoke and their current gaseous emissions reduction goal was to reduce the use of "sulphurous coal". In South Africa Eskom were very fortunate because coal contained little sulphur. She also stated that Eskom was presently negotiating programmes, with the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT), which they planned to undertake in the future. Eskom had already conducted a research study programme where they took rain samples to see how much pollution could be affecting the community at large. She stated that the long-term strategy for Eskom was to supply the bulk of electricity from existing plants. However, additional new power stations would be built in the future and Eskom had already acquired options to the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor Plant and the Simunye Plant, the development of which had previously been put on hold. In conclusion, Ms Govender emphasized that access to electrical power was vital to Africa but she ensured the Committee that Eskom was currently focusing on pollution emissions and their reduction.

Ms L Mbuyazi (IFP) raised a concern that the cost of supplying electricity to the rural areas was very high. She stated that it appeared that industry was more concerned about making money than spending it and that rural populations did not have money to pay for electricity. She also asked if the filters that controlled smoke guaranteed that pollution did not affect people's health.

Ms Govender responded by stating that Eskom were working together with Sasol regarding the provision of electricity to rural population. She expanded on the issue stating that Eskom would provide and subsidise the cost of the electricity via photovoltaics. Regarding the filter issue, she stated that Eskom could not be sure that the filters were 100% effective but that they were continually monitoring the emissions.

The New Approach to Air Quality Management in South Africa
Mr T. Mahema, the Deputy Director of Air Quality Management from DEAT, noted that the Constitution afforded South Africans the right to a clean and non-polluted environment. He stated that in April 2001, the Department had decided to focus on the status of air quality and to formulate key policy directives. He also mentioned that the Department had to develop proper monitoring standards, identify policy elements on a national scale and come up with a strategy. Durban and Gauteng had been identified as the areas where pilot and multi-point plans would be initiated. He added that it had come to a point where local and provincial governments needed be involved in considering the types of permits industry required as many of companies did not have permits. In conclusion, he mentioned that by the end of November, the Department would publish the draft bill dealing with air pollution, for public comment. He added that provincial workshops would be held at the beginning of next year and that bill was scheduled to be tabled in Parliament by April 2002.

Mr R. September (ANC) asked if the Department was focusing on the issue of increasing dust pollution and wanted to know if the responsibility lay with the local, provincial, or national government.

Mr Mahema responded by stating that local authorities, local or provincial government could not adequately deal with the issue as they were under no statutory obligation to do so. He stated that the issue was better dealt with at national level as the national government was ultimately responsible for ensuring that South Africans were afforded their constitutional right to clean and non-polluted environment.

Ms M. Ramotsamai (ANC) raised her concern over the Vaal area, and in particular Soweto, which was exposed to the ash coming out of the mines. The ash prevented people from growing vegetables. She also wanted to know if the Department was using the Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act (1965) to guide them and what steps the government was taking to enforce the existing legislation on air pollution.

Mr Mahema responded by saying that government had an obligation to monitor air pollution but that additional skills were required by government officials to function optimally. He stated that unless the Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act (1965) was amended, many difficulties would remain in monitoring and regulating air pollution.

Presentation on Air Pollution in South Africa
Mr B. Peek, from the GroundWork, stated that GroundWork was a national human rights and environmental justice organisation based in Pietermaritzburg. Their key focus was on air pollution, medical waste, incineration and industrial landfill waste. He raised various concerns regarding air pollution, firstly referring to the South Durban area, serviced by Shell and BP, where leaking pipes remained un-repaired. He further expressed concern over the South African air pollution guidelines which he felt were very lenient and needed an immediate review. He stated that industry admitted that they were polluting the air but nothing was presently done about it. He mentioned that GroundWork had worked with Sasol to measure the levels of air pollution. These studies had revealed that pollution did occur, especially in the Zamdela area. He stated that Engen had agreed to ensure that SO2 use would be reduced, but no commitment had been given in relation to other pollutants. He suggested that DEAT should not rely on international donations it received to deal with air pollution issues but that these costs should be accommodated into departmental budgets. In conclusion, he suggested that DEAT should impose penalties, hold industrial managers responsible for air pollution and ensure that the industry reported regularly on a wide range of pollutants.


Table View Residents Association Presentation
Mr A. Birkinshaw, Chairperson of the Table View Residents Association, stated that the association was a proactive organisation promoting the communities democratic right to participation in all levels of government. Mr Birkinshaw expressed concern over the Caltex Oil Refinery, which operated near Table View, stated that the oil refinery was releasing tons of toxic chemicals into the air. In his conclusion, he urged the Committee to make progress in air pollution legislation so that their community could live within the bounds of their constitutional rights. He stated that the Committee should find a way to begin the reform process needed to protect people and allow everyone to live healthy and productive lives.

Refinery Managers Environmental Forum Presentation
Mr R. Parkes, Manager of the Refinery Managers Environmental Forum (REMF), stated that REMF was established in March 2000 at the Refinery Managers meeting. He mentioned that Engen, Sapref , Sasol, Synthetic Fuels , Caltex, Natref and Mossgas were members of REMF He said that REMF had recommended to the government that it establish a national ambient standard suitable for the South African context. He stated that the forum wished to work together with the Committee, NGO's and industry to reduce air pollution but that government should simultaneously pay attention to residential coal burning. Mr Parkes stated that automobiles should similarly receive attention as they were significant polluters. He said that the REMF could extend their assistance to the government, as they had previously done, by funding experts to advise them on aspects of air pollution. He said that the Forum could help with the funds to build capacity, set policy and install management systems. He suggested that the government should establish an advisory committee and use NGOs and industrial representatives to shape the new policy.

Mr M. Moss (ANC) congratulated the industry for providing job opportunities and said that this issue needed to be balanced against their pollution of the environment. He asked Mr Parkes for a solution to the problems raised in the presentations made by Groundwork and the Table View Residents Association. He asked whether it was necessary to remove the industries from these areas, or close them down, to reduce air pollution.

Mr Parkes responded by saying that closing the industries down was not the solution because both the community and the industries benefited from their existence. He stated that the best solution was pollution reduction.

Ms S. Nqodi (ANC) asked if there were any educational measures or precautions made available to the workers, as she believed they were the people most affected by the pollution.

Mr Parkes assured that the workers were not exposed to danger in any way and that industry were operating according to the international standards.

Ms M. Ramotsamai made an appeal to the Committee to forward the complaint made by the Table View Residents Association to the government. She also suggested that DEAT should involve all stakeholders in formulating the legislation relating to air pollution. She concluded by stating that she believed industry could present a pretty picture to anyone but that the government should formulate a policy and legislation to ensure monitoring and compliance.

The meeting was adjourned.

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Appendix 1

Meeting on Air Quality and Pollution
Tuesday, 11 September 2001

09:30- 10:00 DEAT

10:00-10:20 Eskom

10:00-10:20 Mec: Agriculture, Conservation, Environment and Land Affairs (Gauteng)

10:50-11:10 Groundwork

11:10-11:20 Tea

11:20-11:40 Table view Residents Association

11:40-12:00 Refinery Manager's Environmental Forum

12:00-13:00 Discussions

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