Mpumalanga: World’s largest NO2 hotspot

Michele du Plessis

“A ground breaking analysis of satellite data from 1 June to 31 August this year reveals the world’s largest NO2 air pollution hotspots across six continents in the most detail to date. Greenpeace analysis of the data points to coal and transport as the two principal sources of air pollution, with Mpumalanga in South Africa topping the chart as the world’s largest NO2 (Nitrogen Dioxide) hotspot across six continents.” Press release, October 2018.

Mpumalanga is home to a cluster of twelve coal-fired power plants with a total capacity of over 32 gigawatts owned and operated by Eskom. “It has been reported before that the Witbank area has the world’s dirtiest air, and now this analysis of high tech satellite data has revealed that the Mpumalanga province is the global number one hotspot for NO2 emissions. This confirms that South Africa has the most polluting cluster of coal-fired power stations in the world which is both disturbing and very scary” said Melita Steele, Senior Climate and Energy Campaign Manager for Greenpeace Africa.

Eskom’s Masibambisane: Working together for cleaner air is an Air Quality Offsets Programme aimed at improving ambient air quality. This also includes reducing emissions at the existing coal-fired fleet, investing in power generation from renewables and nuclear, and implementing air quality offsets.

The Air Quality Officers in the affected district municipalities have directed Eskom to implement air quality offsets in communities affected by Eskom operations. Air quality offsets address emissions sources directly within vulnerable communities, targeting greater improvement in community-experienced air quality than is achievable from other approaches.

“Because South Africa’s coal-belts are hidden from view for the majority of South Africans, it can be easy to pretend that they don’t actually exist. The reality is that coal extraction and burning has devastating impacts on the people living in the area. This satellite data now confirms that there is nowhere to hide: Eskom’s coal addiction in Mpumalanga means that millions of people living in Johannesburg and Pretoria are also impacted by the pollution from coal” continued Steele.

“South Africa is a significant global hotspot with its high concentration of coal power stations and its weak air pollution standards. Our Government urgently needs to come up with an action plan that protects millions of people, instead of dirty coal power stations,” continued Steele.

“The Government should also set up an action plan with concrete steps, measures and deadlines to make sure that air pollution levels in high priority areas comply with existing regulations. This means that no new coal-fired power stations can be included in the national electricity plan (IRP 2018), unit 5 and 6 of Kusile coal power plant in Mpumalanga must be cancelled and 50 per cent of current coal-fired power stations need to be decommissioned by 2030 in line with the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C” Steele concluded.


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