Proudly sponsored by

Court orders government to clean up air in coal belt

Giving the environment minister a year to make regulations to put into effect a clean air plan.
Image: Moneyweb

A South African court on Friday upheld a complaint by activists that poor air quality in the coal belt is a breach of constitutional rights, giving the environment minister a year to enforce a clean air plan.

South Africa’s coal belt, east of the capital Pretoria and main city Johannesburg is home to an estimated 3.6 million people, as well as a dozen Eskom coal-fired power stations and some Sasol petrochemicals plants.

Activists, scientists and doctors, as well as a United Nations human rights expert have argued that the epidemic of nasty respiratory diseases in the area is a direct result of high levels of air pollution.

In a 2019 report, for the state-owned Council for Scientific and Industrial Research showed more than 5 000 South Africans die annually in the nation’s coal belt because the government has failed to fully enforce its own air quality standards, and that a quarter of households there have children with asthma.

The High Court in the capital Pretoria said Environment Minister Barbara Creecy had a legal duty to make regulations that enforce a government plan for cleaner air and that she had “unreasonably delayed” doing so.

A spokesperson for Creecy did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, in her submission, the minister argued that while air pollution in the coal belt was indeed a problem, using the constitution to try to force the minister’s hand violated the separation of powers — an argument the court rejected.

The court ruling will require the government to take tougher action against heavy polluters such as liquid fuel producer Sasol and state power company Eskom, which is drowning in debt and struggling to keep the lights on as it is.


Sort by:
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Top voted

You must be signed in and an Insider Gold subscriber to comment.


Sorry, we have to make hard choices

I do believe we will over time clean up our energy and pollution. It won’t be because of green issues. Technology and cost have already won that battle.

BUT : doing retrofits on 30y old plants (oil to coal is extremely filthy and 50y old) now to satisfy new emission goals is like putting lipstick on a pig. It would never pass a rational test.

I doubt emissions are worse now than in 1975. People make trade-off decisions about where they work and live.

You probably mean Sasol’s CTL, coal-to liquid process, which is not environmentally friendly at all. Already about two years back, there were quite a few articles about environmental groups wanting Sasol and Eskom to spend R 300 B to comply with modern standards to mitigate the environmental effects of burning coal, FGD flue gas desulphurisation and particulate matter filtration. This is off course putting lipstick on a pig, as most of Eskoms powerstations are more than 30 years old and in a terribly dilapidated state.
So as most of the world is electrifying more and more, and abandoning fossil fuels, SA should do likewise. Have private companies build at record speed as much as clean electricity generation as possible, and scrap all import duties, and valorem tax for EVs. Give all filling stations R 10 or 20 k subsidy for every EV charging bay they create. And let the market do the rest.
The R 130 B easy finance for energy transition from rich countries should be mainly used for improving the transmission system, mostly in the NC. NOT for state run hydrogen or EV production. Only a small part should go to traditional coal communities.

End of comments.




Instrument Details  

You do not have any portfolios, please create one here.
You do not have an alert portfolio, please create one here.

Follow us:

Search Articles:
Click a Company: