Mobilising communities to beat air pollution

2019-06-12 06:02
Commemorating World Environment Day are members of Keep Umvoti Clean Youth Agency (front row) with teachers and pupils at Ngome Primary. photo: ANDILE SITHOLE

Commemorating World Environment Day are members of Keep Umvoti Clean Youth Agency (front row) with teachers and pupils at Ngome Primary. photo: ANDILE SITHOLE

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A HEALTHY planet is essential for a prosperous and peaceful future.

This is according to local non-profit organisation (NGO) Keep uMvoti Clean Youth Agency.

Members of the NGO; along with the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs; commemorated World Environmental Day at Ngome Primary outside of Greytown on June 5.

The day is the United Nations’ biggest annual event for encouraging worldwide awareness about the environment. The event is a global platform for public outreach.

According to the United Nations (UN), air pollution affects all, but women and children and the elderly and low-income groups are the most vulnerable to its effects.

uMvoti Clean Youth Agency leader Bongani Biyela said the aim of their visit at Ngome was to keep pupils informed about matters pertaining to the environment.

“We believe that young people are capable of spreading the word to the communities about protecting the environment.

“Our awareness programme was based on air pollution and plastic pollution.

“This was one of our outreach programmes conducted every year.

“We urge communities to keep uMvoti beautiful. We also appeal to the community and uMvoti Municipality to continue supporting us in our programmes. Our aim is to protect the environment,” Biyela said.

Pupils were also taught about using the eco-brick system to save the environment.

According to the uMvoti Aids Centre, eco-bricks are made of a plastic bottle or container which has random plastic waste compressed inside it that is packed in so densely that it can bear the weight of a person without deformation. These can then be used in the construction of play structures, garden beds, benches for parks, boundary walls, and even housing.

Biyela and his team are determined to instil new ideas in the community about nature preservation.

The increasing number of polluted rivers and dams encouraged the team to embark on annual awareness programmes to educate residents about the significance of keeping the environment clean.

Newly appointed Minister of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy, participated in a clean-up campaign in support of the World Environment Day in Mamelodi East.

In talking to the community of Nellmapius at the event, the minister said pollution and ineffective waste management affects the lives of people living with poverty most severely.

“South Africa is no exception, and the legacy of our past means that black people living in poor communities shoulder this burden disproportionately. Only 66% of households are having refuse removal at least once per week. The consequence is many households resort to informal waste disposal,” Creecy said.

The minister also said the National Waste Management Strategy has the potential to contribute 69 000 jobs in the green economy and support the development of countless SMMEs and cooperatives.

“Accordingly, we want to encourage communities to view waste as a potential source of income,” Creecy said.

The department has identified opportunities for waste beneficiating in plastics, paper, glass, tyres, building rubble, ash, sludge and electronics.

These initiatives involve scientific research, value chain development, skills training and micro enterprise support, the minister added.

The department said provincial government is currently assessing the management of municipal landfills with the aim of identifying weaknesses and developing strategies for improving compliance to license conditions.

“National government is in the process of reviewing the support we give provincial and local government with a view to making our National Waste Management Strategy more effective,” said the department.

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