Court gives Environment Minister a year to enforce clean air plan

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Environmental justice group, Groundwork says government must hold accountable those who are responsible for pollution in the country.

The High Court in Pretoria on Friday upheld a complaint by activists that poor air quality in the coal belt breached residents’ constitutional rights.

The court gave Environment Minister Barbara Creecy a year in which to enforce a clean air plan drawn up a decade ago.

South Africa’s coal belt in Mpumalanga is home to an estimated 3.6 million people, as well as a dozen Eskom coal-fired power stations and some Sasol petrochemical plants.

The group’s Bobby Peek says pollution poses the biggest risk to the health of South Africans.

“Really important judgment in South Africa’s history, about human rights, linking the environment to human rights. So now we understand environmental justice much more clearly. It’s about open democracy because industries now have to provide the information that we wanted for many years. It’s about accountability, industries must put in place and the government must put in place the systems that force the industry to have good monitoring. Certain industries must close and there has to be a plan for decommissioning and rehabilitation of Mpumalanga, There are many people dying from that pollution,” says Peek.

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