In 2017, DA questions to the council revealed that the 3 monitors in question, namely the Jacobs, Grosvenor and Warwick Avenue air quality monitoring stations were not functional. EThekwini Municipality assured us that the monitors would be repaired in 2017, 2-years later, the monitors are still not working.
A report from the South African Weather Service reveals that there has been no air quality reporting from eThekwini Municipality for years. This means the municipality also hasn’t made any air quality data available to the public on the South African Air Quality Information System.
The DA is concerned that without the proper functioning of these devices, the city will fail in its duty to monitor ambient air quality, report statistics to residents as well as fine licensees that have exceeded the minimum levels of emissions as set out in the National Environmental Management Air Quality Act. The lack of the data also means SA Weather Services cannot detect avert possible floods and communicate warning in advance.
The DA is particularly concerned with the long-term effects of non-controlled air quality on the health of eThekwini citizens. According to the WHO (World Health Organisation), the estimated 4.2 million premature deaths globally are linked to ambient air pollution, mainly from heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and acute respiratory infections in children.
Worldwide ambient air pollution accounts for:
29% of all deaths and disease from lung cancer
17% of all deaths and disease from acute lower respiratory infection
24% of all deaths from stroke
25% of all deaths and disease from ischemic heart disease
43% of all deaths and disease from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
The poor are most vulnerable, as they don’t have the means to relocate from heavily polluted areas and thus face the full brunt of the harmful effects. This is completely unacceptable, the city needs to repair all damaged equipment in order for air quality to be monitored more stringently, and those found guilty of exceeding the minimum standards should be punished.
The DA understands that the lack of air quality monitoring may lead to the release of excessive amounts of CO2 emissions that if left unchecked, contributes to increased global temperatures. Global climate change has many negative impacts, including stronger storms, droughts, and an increase in pests and diseases, facilitated by warmer more erratic weather patterns.
In the DA-led City of Johannesburg (COJ), the MMC for Environment and Infrastructure Services, Councillor Nico de Jager, last week officially relaunched a newly revamped Air Quality Monitoring station, in Orange Farm, south of Johannesburg.
This shows our commitment to tackling environmental issues head on.
Without enforcement, the city will lose the fight against climate change as well as put the lives of its citizens at risk. The Democratic Alliance calls on the eThekwini Municipality to urgently repair all damaged air quality monitoring devices promptly and ensure that all offenders are brought to book.
We will continue to fight for a responsive city that prioritises climate change as a matter of urgency.
by Cllr Marlaine Nair – DA eThekwini Environmental Planning & Climate Protection Spokesperson