PMB the foul air capital

2018-05-07 16:53
Sulfur dioxide levels exceed safety limits.

Sulfur dioxide levels exceed safety limits. (File)

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Pietermaritzburg has the most polluted air in the province alongside South Durban, Richards Bay, Estcourt and Newcastle.

This is the conclusion of the provincial environmental outlook report, which was released by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs MEC Sihle Zikalala on Sunday.

The 275-page report focuses on climate change, air quality management, biodiversity and ecosystem health, land modification, freshwater resources, marine and coastal resources, economics and human settlements and waste.

According to the report, the transport sector is a significant and growing polluter while industrial and commercial emitters, biomass burning and domestic fuels burning are ongoing concerns.

In Pietermaritzburg, the main sources of visible air pollution are vehicle emissions and industry, according to Sabelo Ngcobo, the district manager for the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs.

“Pietermaritzburg is becoming a high traffic area and congestion is also increasing. As a result the significant and growing pollutants in the transport sector like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide concentration shows a few areas of concern,” Ngcobo told The Witness.

The report stipulates that the air quality measured at three monitoring stations in the city shows that sulfur dioxide exceeds the safety limits. Another cause for concern was high dust fallout at Mkondeni.

Ngcobo said: “We agree as the department that currently there is not enough infrastructure, which is why among other things, we are coming up with strategies that will be outlining air quality management plans for the province.”

Ngcobo said: “It is important for residents to realise that we can make a difference by maintaining vehicles in good running order by servicing them regularly; by carpooling and using public transport where possible.”

He added that a comprehensive air-management plan will be rolled out in June and it will run for a year-and-a-half.

Unpredictable climate conditions were cited as an ongoing concern in the province. The report predicts generally drier conditions with drought likely to become more frequent and more intense.

Water scarcity, land scarcity, and the quality of human life and ecological systems are identified as potential environmental “tipping points with the likelihood of further deterioration” over time.

“This will unfortunately lead to heat waves which will have severe impacts on agriculture, water security, biodiversity and human health,” said Zikalala.

From 2007, the effects of climate change, in particular storms, floods and droughts, have caused R250 million damage to property in the province. The costs are expected to increase as the intensity of extreme weather events increases.

The report also identifies that KZN is “starved” of water because of drought.

“The water demand is increasing at a fast pace owing to the growing demand for water for sanitation, water services, agriculture and urbanisation.

“Increasing temperatures, unpredictable rainfall caused by climate change also contribute to the increasing shortage of water in our province,” Zikalala added.

He also issued a stern warning on illegal dumping of medical waste, which he said was still common in all areas of the province.

“We are being inundated with calls from rural communities who complain about the illegal dumping of hazardous waste, which poses a serious danger to the environment and people’s health.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  air pollution

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