Thursday 23 February 2012

Background and development of the Priority Area

The Vaal Triangle and surrounding areas has been declared a national air pollution hotspot (or priority area) in terms of Section 18 (1) of the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act 2004 (Act No. 39 of 2004) (AQA). This area, known as the “Vaal Triangle Airshed Priority Area” is the first such identified area in South Africa.
Special interventions are now being made by the National Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) to improve the air quality in the Vaal Triangle Airshed Priority Area. These interventions include the development of a Priority Area Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP) that will be developed in accordance with the provisions of the AQA. Once the plan is developed and implemented, air quality in the area should efficiently and effectively be brought into sustainable compliance with national ambient air quality standards within agreed timeframes.
Which Areas are Part of the Vaal Triangle Priority Area?
Boundaries of the Vaal Triangle Air-shed Priority Area in terms of Section 18 (1) includes the areas contained within the boundaries of
  1. The Emfuleni Local Municipality (Sedibeng) in Gauteng Province,
  2. The Midvaal Local Municipality (Sedibeng) in Gauteng Province,
  3. The administrative regions of Doornkop and Soweto, Diepkoof and Meadowlands and Ennerdale and Orange Farm within the City of Johannesburg in Gauteng,
  4. The Metsimaholo Municipality in the North Free State, Free State Province.
The area comprises of heavy industrial activities, one power station, several commercial operations, thousands of people using motor vehicles as well as many households utilising coal as an energy source.
What is a Priority Area?
In terms of section 18 (1) of the AQA, the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism may, by notice in the Gazette, declare an area as a priority area if the Minister reasonably believes that
  1. Ambient air quality standards are being, or may be, exceeded in the area, or any other situation exists which is causing, or may cause, a significant negative impact on air quality in the area; and
  2. The area requires specific air quality management action to rectify the situation.
Why was the Vaal Triangle selected as a Priority Area?
The Vaal Triangle, in particular, suffers extremely poor air quality and people living in the area do not enjoy air quality that is not harmful to their health and well-being. Respiratory ailments and diseases, including early morning coughing, wheezing and asthma are common irritations that people in the area suffer. Several studies have been conducted that found that the air quality in the area is indeed extremely poor and has a direct negative impact on the health and well-being of the people living there.
Enough evidence was provided to the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism to declare the area a priority area since the proposed ambient air quality standards were, and are, being exceeded in the Vaal Triangle and that a situation existed which was, and is, causing a significant negative impact on air quality in the area. Affected communities from Boipatong, Steelvalley, Sasolburg and Bophelong went and lobby portfolio committee of environment to come up the air quality act and visit Vaal Triangle to witness pollution. It was only after this efforts from communities with the support of groundwork and legal resoure centre that we got a new act and the Minister formally declared the Vaal Triangle Air-Shed Priority Area on 21 April 2006.
Project Objective
The main aim of developing the Vaal Triangle Airshed Priority Area Air Quality Management Plan is to efficiently and affectively bring air quality in the area into sustainable compliance with national air quality standards within agreed timeframes.
Project Aims
  1. Develop a priority area air quality management plan for the Vaal Triangle Airshed Priority Area.
  2. Ensure improvement of air quality within the Vaal Triangle Airshed Priority Area.
  3. Reduce environmental and human health risks.
  4. Reduce emissions in an equitable & cost-effective way.
  5. Empower local municipalities, provincial government and national government to meet its obligations as outlined in the Air Quality Act.
Roundtable discussion with Mazwi Lushaba and Victor Loate
Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance has been following this process from the beginning. We  have observe how industries want to hijack the process to hide the reality that they are polluting. Government has install six monitoring, this station proved that pollution in the area has increase especially PM10 emssions. Industries continue to blame this pollution on poor communities. Next article we will right about Basanje ngogo strategy, it a short term strategy to address coal burning.

VEJA was concern about the development and community involvement. Department of Environmental Affairs reached out to us, so far we had two separate meeitng to address our concern more importantly to come up with a joined communities invlovement plan. In the last meeting, Department agreed to train 20 monitor from VEJA about air quality. This monitor they will work as pollution watchdog in their different areas and they will observe and records pollution incidents and report to the relevent structures. They will also be trained on how take samples. Next step they will ran outreach and awareness programs.  If things goes according to plan, training will take place in march. National Department of Environment, Sedibeng District manucipality and Fezile Dabi will provide taining, venue and material. We want the entire community to understand environment, start asking questions about it and start pointing out the real culprit.

Youth Stepping up to their role

"What could be more important than the future of our world?
Youth demanding clean environment
As young people, we have the most at stake, so we should be stepping up to our roles as the major stakeholders and stand
up for the kind of future we want." -PauPau, TakingITGlobal member, Philippines

On the 11th February 2012, Vaal Working Class Cordinating Committee youth held their first meeting after attending COP 17 in Durban. The purpose of the meeting was to share their experices of COP 17 and how can they be actively invloved in environmental issues.

Some did not have an idea of what was going to happened in Durban, however later during the conference they finally understood what COP17 was all about. They have learned that climate is happening and its not only happening in South Africa.

Youth meeting in Sebokeng
They have also learned that Climate change is considered to be one of the most serious threats to sustainable development, with the adverse impact expected on the environment, human health, food security, economical activities, natural resources and physical infrastructures. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the effects of climate change have already been observed, and scientific indicate that precautionary and prompt action is necessary.
The youth is ready to take action because they are living close to polluting companies such as ArcelorMittal, Samancor and Sasol. Adding to the problem of pollution in the Vaal is domestic Coal burning and illegal waste dumps everywhere. The very same youth took part on the Walk for Climate Change from Vanderbiljpark to Sasol. The walk was organised by Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance on the 19th December 2012. After this long walk they particpated in the the community meeting that took place in Zamdela on the same day.
Our youth in Durban on global of Action
The youth agreed to establish a study group that will meet monthly, where they will discuss various topics and plan actions for a specific issues. Veja will provide material for discussion and will provide support. Dudu Diphoko  and Sydney will lead the study group.