South Africa’s environmental department has dispatched a team to the eastern coastal city of Durban to try and help contain air and water pollution from a chemicals plant that was set alight during violent protests.
The plant, owned by Indian agro-chemical firm UPL Ltd., produces herbicides, fungicides and pesticides and is situated in one of the areas hit hardest by days of rioting and looting across the KwaZulu-Natal province. Residents, already struggling to get bread, milk and other basics after the unrest, reported seeing plumes of gray smoke near the facility site.
“We are deeply concerned about the environmental impact on air quality as well as on the aquatic and marine ecosystems resulting from the fire incident at the UPL facility,” Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Barbara Creecy said in a statement Wednesday. “The priority at this stage is to ensure that impacts are mitigated and that the containment measures are effective.”
The plant went up in flames on July 12 and continued to burn for days. There have been reports of the water flowing into a lagoon changing colour and dead fish washing ashore. Indian Ocean beaches in the vicinity remain closed to the public.
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