Durban refinery blasted for 'toxic air'


A small, but angry, group from Wentworth and Austerville in Durban gathered at a public meeting on Tuesday night to demand an end to "empty promises" on air pollution from industry and government.

Although less than 60 people braved the wet, chilly weather to voice their concerns, community organisers in south Durban are confident of a much-larger turnout at meetings in Merebank on Thursday night and the Bluff on Friday.

Those at the Austerville community centre meeting seemed despondent about the lack of action after many similar meetings over several decades, but they applauded loudly when a resident declared that the pollution and health problems in the area could be solved only by "people power".

"If people come out in force, we can make it happen."

Engen representative Allan Munn abandoned his attempt to reassure the community that it was possible to co-exist in harmony with the refinery after Kim Jones questioned the company's integrity.

"Why should we compromise or come to the table with you? You have been making millions for years and years and we have been suffering and getting sicker," she said.

"What have you been doing for the community except for building a token school, or a token nature reserve? You employ only 500 people and only half of them come from this community ... Who gave you the right to come here and kill us?" she asked.

Meeting organiser Desmond D'Sa criticised the lack of meaningful legal penalties.

He said: "The Marine Living Resources Act provides for penalties of up to R2-million and five years' imprisonment for the protection of marine life - yet there are no comparative provisions to protect communities from the evils of industry."


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