Environmental activists finding it difficult to get polluters to comply with policies

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Pollution remains a serious global issue with environmental activists finding it difficult to get the major polluters to comply with the set policies to limit pollution. This came to light when United Nations member states sought advice from the International Justice Court, on whether states could be forced to comply.

The Mpumalanga Department of Agriculture with other members gathered at the Ehlanzeni Disaster Management Centre, for their very first meeting. The meeting discussed core issues affecting the environment and ways to tackle it.

According to World Air Quality statistics, collected between between 2018 and 2022 South Africa is ranked 39 in the category of the World’s most polluted countries and regions. The cities of Ermelo, Hendrina and eMbalenhle in Mpumalanga are ranked at number five, seven and nine respectively in the category of ‘most polluted city’ in the country.

The delegates at the gathering in Ehlanzeni Disaster Management Centre, touched on the many factors contributing to pollution in the district, while seeking solutions. Ehlanzeni District Municipality Executive Mayor, Councillor Jesta Sidell, stated the importance of all role players including traditional leaders to work together.

“We need to partner with our traditional leaders. You would acknowledge the fact that when you go to our rural villages, there are illegal dumping sites everywhere. In these rural areas, how do we bring in traditional leaders to probably allocate pieces of land so that in each and every hood, in each and every village, our community members know as to where can they put together their waste and take it to these demarcated sites?” Sidell elaborates.

Mayor Sidell says waste recycling also creates employment opportunities for people in communities.

“We are saying we can convert those challenges of illegal dumping to opportunities. By doing what? Talking to our community members to form cooperatives so that they can use this waste in terms of recycling, create work opportunities so that they can be self-sustained. And our traditional leadership partnering with municipalities, in as far as having people that would work in those sites,” Sidell explains.

Deaths related to air pollution

As the fight about issues of air pollution continues, the lives of residents are threatened, making them vulnerable to respiratory diseases. A Global Air State-report also revealed that the more than 23 000 premature deaths in South Africa in 2017, were a result of air pollution.

In attempts to shift people from burning fossil fuels and cutting down trees for fire-wood, the company TNK Greenhouse Technology in Nkomazi is manufacturing coal from bio degradable or agricultural waste.

TNK Greenhouse Technology’s director, Given Ngwamba says it will assist in keeping the air clean.

“Our product is made out of Agricultural waste in fighting against deforestation. Trees are important for us. They clean the air for us, they give us the fresh oxygen and they limit the heat for us. They absorb the carbon for us so that we do not have much heat. But right now in our communities, we do not experience that because we experienced to so much heat because people have chopped off a lot of forestry to make wood. Others are running it as business. So for us, we saw an opportunity in recycling the waste that is surrounding in the agricultural industry,” Ngwamba explains.

Joining the pollution fight is the Manganese Metal Company, mining manganese just outside Mbombela. The company’s Chief Executive Officer, Louise Nel says most of their projects are environmentally friendly.

“We use about 45 Mega Watts. So we are a large power user, so that precludes us from putting up a solar plant for our own use. We have last year started wheeling hydropower from Lydenburg. We are also looking at local hydropower. Our industry is changing substantially in the sense that over the last ten years, we have developed a healthy market for manganese in lithium-ion batteries, specifically for electric vehicles. So we are a big part of the green economy,” says Nel.

Air pollution is not the only issue to drag the province down. Land pollution is another issue especially the high number of illegal dumping sites in various municipalities in the district.

Rubbish bins donated to the district, will be distributed in the areas most affected by illegal dumping sites. About 70% of the Ehlanzeni District is rural communities and the inclusion of traditional leaders to save the environment was welcomed. – Reporting by Michael Mdluli