- While South Africa’s air quality monitoring network shows that the country has not yet met the national ambient air quality standards, significant strides to attain improvements in the quality of air have been made.
Addressing the National Air Quality Governance Lekgotla, Deputy Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Makhotso Sotyu, said despite government’s efforts over the years, particulate matter, sulphur dioxide and ozone remain the key pollutants of concern, especially in metropolitan municipalities and the air quality priority areas.
“Large scale industrial activities, power stations, vehicles, waste burning, and the burning of open veld continue to be major causes of air pollution. Recently, load shedding has increased the country’s reliance on alternative energy sources such as generators, coal, wood, charcoal, and paraffin in communities. The reliance on these alternative energy sources not only poses health hazards to the individuals themselves, but also exacerbate the deterioration of air quality,” Sotyu said on Monday.
Since the promulgation of the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act, South Africa has made significant strides to attain improvements in the quality of air.
“Our country has progressively facilitated the realisation of the Constitutional Right to an environment that promotes sustainable, equitable and inclusive growth that is not harmful to the health and well-being of citizens.
“We have advanced these constitutional rights to a safe and healthy environment with strong laws, vibrant cooperative governance, and innovative tools on air pollution management. These laws and tools must be supported by an effective and proactive enforcement to reduce harmful levels of air pollution and ensure a safe and healthy environment,” Sotyu said.
She further noted that South Africa’s quality monitoring stations continue to face increasing pressure due to escalating operational and maintenance costs and ageing infrastructure.
“At a time when the country is faced with economic and social challenges, and fiscal constraints, the national Department has had to find new ways to meet monitoring objectives through the support of the South African Weather Service (SAWS).
“We will be calling upon the entity to assist all spheres of government in managing several strategic stations for the foreseeable future. Such an intervention must ultimately build the much-needed technical capacity in government that will be sustainable,” she said.
The National Air Quality Governance Lekgotla took place in Polokwane, Limpopo, under the theme: “Scalable Emission Reductions by 2030.”
“While capacity at local government remains a challenge, the implementation of the Special Cabinet decision to assist struggling municipalities with the administrative function of processing atmospheric emission licences has enabled significant improvements in this regard.
“The sector has achieved an efficiency of 88% in processing atmospheric emission licences in the last financial year, compared to 63% achieved in the previous financial year,” Sotyu said.
The Deputy Minister said the department is developing priority area regulations to implement and enforce Priority Area Air Quality Management Plans.
“I am happy to report that these regulations have undergone extensive public consultations and will be considered for publication soon. These regulations will intensify accountability and a shared responsibility across all sectors of society in improving the quality of air,” the Deputy Minister said.