eMalahleni residents concerned about their health

Mine in eMalahleni
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Residents of eMalahleni in Mpumalanga are concerned about their health. Many have complained of respiratory problems.

The city has been identified as having the dirtiest air quality in the world. The European Space Agency conducted research using satellite imagery.

Greenpeace released satellite data from June to August this year which reveals the world’s largest Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) air pollution.

eMalahleni, home of coal, is the heartbeat of the economy but it’s said to have the dirtiest air in the world.

Harmful to residents and the atmosphere, one of them is Little Princess Mathebula. The four year old is struggling to breathe she needs oxygen.

Mbali Mathebula a mother says: “She is no longer going to school because of pollution. She has got a heart problem and sometimes itching, at night we don’t sleep nicely.”

Princess is not alone. Tumelo Ledwaba started getting sick at seven-months-old. The 13-year-old’s life has never been the same since.

She’s short of breath, coughs and suffers from sinusitis and eye problems.

Studies have shown that people who live in areas that have high volumes of pollution are more likely to seek treatment for lungs and heart disease compared to those in less polluted areas.

Dr Diphalong Mashifane, a medical doctor, has treated many patients with similar symptoms and says: “Mainly what we see is respiratory problems, people developing sinuses, and general in the past years this area Middelburg, Witbank, and surrounding areas we had a lot of people.”

Nhlanhla Sibisi, Greenpeace Climate and Energy Campaigner says: “The European Space Agency conducted research using satellite imagery and through the satellite imagery, they were able to track the air pollution that is coming from that area. But remember that the data they collected is from across the world and they then classified Mpumalanga (as in the eMalahleni area) as one of the hotspots. So basically what the hotspot means is that within a 25 kilometre radius, (in the case of South Africa) we have 12 fire powered stations that are located in that area which actually makes it a hotspot. ”

The report states that Eskom and coal mines are major contributors. The power utility has 12 coal powered plants in the province.

Eskom has failed to comply with the minimum emission standards. It emits 10 times more nitrogen dioxide than allowed.

Emalahleni Municipality says the environmental by-laws aren’t being enforced.

Areas as far afield as Johannesburg and Pretoria are affected by the nitrogen dioxide when an easterly wind blows.

But for as long as the country’s energy mix leans towards coal-fired power stations, pollution will remain a factor.