The Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Rejoice Mabudafhasi addressed the 7th annual Air Quality Governance Lekgotla which took place at the end of October in Rustenburg.
The Deputy Minister said that South Africa’s rate of development is the contributing factor to air pollution. “Measures must be in place to control all of this and government needs to be tough on air polluters. Mining and industrial regions such as the North West and Gauteng are developing very fast and that’s why we are targeting them.”
Mabudafhasi said government used the lekgotla in various provinces to raise awareness on the importance of air quality, something she said was in line with the country’s climate response policy approved by Cabinet earlier this year.
The lekgotla is an annual event that is aimed at providing a forum for co-ordination and capacity building in air quality management. The event also provides air quality officials from all spheres of government the opportunity to share experiences, challenges and to plan for the year ahead. The theme of this year’s lekgotla was “Sharpening the air quality technical and legislative aspects for improved service delivery”. The event dealt with, among others: ambient air quality monitoring in the national priority areas; the compliance and enforcement roles of air quality officials; air quality management planning and climate change co-benefits; as well as the implementation progress of the National Climate Change Policy. It also allowed the Department of Environmental Affairs to profile its work in managing and improving air quality in the country and to highlight the progress made by the department to date in relation to the rollout of the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act (Act No. 39 of 2004).
Mabudafhasi added that citizens in urban areas needed to understand the importance of clean air as well as the consequences of pollution, saying that checks and balances were needed to allow for development while protecting not only the environment but the rights of the people.
Government declared the North West province a national priority area in terms of air quality. It is postulated that the industrial sector is the prime contributor to air pollution with more than 90% of the country’s electricity generated from coal combustion.