KwaZulu-Natal’s 2018 Environmental Outlook Report has named the Durban South Basin as one of the hotspots for high air pollution levels.

The report by the provincial Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs also highlights other pressing challenges like climate change, mining and illegal dumping.

The heavily industrialised Durban South Basin is home to the largest concentration of petrochemical industries in the country.

Local government’s answer lies with their “Air Quality Management Plan”. But the plan has not even got off the ground yet.

KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs official, Zama Mathenjwa says, “We had planned to start developing it from last year, but unfortunately a few administrative challenges occurred.”

“But we’ve scheduled to start the process in June this year. It will run for about a year and a half to two years. We hope that before the end of 2020 we would have had a comprehensive air quality management plan,” adds Mathenjwa.

55-year-old Vanitha Perumal, who lives in Merebank, says she and her family have never smoked but they have constantly battle rashes, itchy noses and throats and a strong sulphur smell.

Perumal says four generations of her family have battled poor health.

“You’ll find your eyes is burning and itching. Your nose, you’ll get that tickling feeling in your nose. You feel itchiness in your throat and sometimes if it’s very high, depends what is in the air your skin will start for no reason. You’ll think you’ve got a rash but there’s no rash but your skin is just itching.”

“Honestly I feel this very deep in my heart have a good neighbourly relationship. When they’re having a problem on the plant don’t lie and deny it. Tell us the truth we’re not stupid people, we might be living in this house but we’re educated. But we are living here we know when the siren is going on the plant there’s something wrong,” says Perumal.

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