M van Schalkwyk on announcing Highveld national air pollutionhotspot

26 Nov 2007
Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk formally declares the Highveld
a national air pollution hotspot

26 November 2007

Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, have
formally declared the Highveld Priority Area as a national air pollution
hotspot. The declaration is made in terms of the National Environmental
Management: Air Quality Act 2004.

The Minister's intention to declare the eastern part of Gauteng and western
part of Mpumalanga as an air pollution hotspot was made on 4 May 2007. His
formal declaration is contained in the Government Gazette of Friday, 23
November 2007. The Priority Area covers a total area of 31,106 km2 and the
total population resident in the area is approximately 3,6 million people.

The hotspot is defined as the area that extends from the eastern parts of
Gauteng, to Middelburg in the north and the edge of the escarpment in the south
and east. Major towns occurring within this region include Witbank, Middelburg,
Secunda, Standerton, Edenvale, Boksburg, Benoni and Balfour. The area
incorporates portions of the Gauteng and Mpumalanga Provinces. The area is
contained within one metropolitan municipality (Ekurhuleni) and three district
municipalities (Sedibeng, Gert Sibande and Nkangala) and more specifically nine
local municipalities: Lesedi Local Municipality (Sedibeng), Govan Mbeki Local
Municipality (Gert Sibande), Dipaleseng Local Municipality (Gert Sibande),
Lekwa Local Municipality (Gert Sibande), Msukaligwa Local Municipality (Gert
Sibande), Prixley ka Seme Local Municipality (Gert Sibande), Delmas Local
Municipality (Nkangala), Emalahleni Local Municipality (Nkangala), and Steve
Tshwete Local Municipality (Nkangala).

The area contains several sources of air pollution, including a range of
industrial, mining and agricultural activities including: Power stations,
timber and related industries, metal smelters, petrochemical plants, brick and
stone works, mines (primarily coal mines), fertiliser and chemical producers,
explosives producers, charcoal producers, and other small additional industrial
operations. Furthermore, many households still utilise coal as an energy
carrier.

Although, in broad terms, South Africa's air quality is not regarded as
being an overall problem, there are many localised areas that suffer extremely
poor air quality. In these air-pollution hotspots there is little doubt that
people living and working in these areas do not enjoy air quality that is not
harmful to their health and well being. Given this situation, among others, the
Air Quality Act provides for the legislative mechanism known as the priority
area approach that was specifically devised to provide key strategic elements
for air quality management namely focusing of limited resources, formalising
intergovernmental co-operation and air shed management.

"The declaration of the second National Priority Area signals a milestone in
the implementation of the Air Quality Act," said Mava Scott, Spokesperson for
the department. The Vaal Triangle Air”: Shed Priority Area was the first
National Priority Area declared by the Minister on 21 April 2006. "In declaring
the Highveld Priority Area, the Minister is satisfied that a situation exists
within the area which is causing or may cause, a significant negative impact on
air quality and that the area requires specific air quality management action
to rectify the situation," added Scott.

In order to address the Minister's concerns, the department, together with
the affected provincial and municipal departments, must now develop an air
quality management plan for the area that must: be aimed at co-ordinating air
quality management in the area, address issues related to air quality in the
area, and provide for the implementation of the plan by a committee
representing relevant role-players. In this regard, the Minister has allowed
the department two years in which to develop the plan to his satisfaction.

To ensure broad participation in the development of the required plan, the
department has invited nominations for membership of a multi-stakeholder
reference group for the Highveld Priority Area from interested and affected
business and industry associations, non-governmental organisations, organised
labour and community groups.

For enquiries contact:
Roopa Singh
Cell: 082 225 3076
E-mail: rsingh@deat.gov.za

Issued by: Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism
26 November 2007
Source: Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (http://www.environment.gov.za)