Greenpeace adds voice to pollution protest

Greenpeace activists will be among the overseas environmental experts joining forces with Wentworth residents in Durban this weekend to protest against oil industry giants, Engen and Sapref (Shell, BP).

Guest speakers at Saturday's community protest include Margie Richards from the United States, president of the concerned citizens group which successfully challenged Shell worldwide; Isaac Osuoka from Friends of the Earth in Nigeria; and Denny Larson from the Refinery Reform Campaign, in the USA.

Greenpeace campaigners are presently in South African waters on their ship, MV Esperanza, monitoring a shipment of lethal chemicals.

Desmond D'Sa of the South Durban Environmental Action Committee (SDCEA) said the public meeting will take place on Saturday at 14h00 at the Fairvale Secondary School, opposite the Engen Refinery, in Tara Road, Wentworth.

Said D'Sa: "We are concerned about corporate accountability, particularly the manner in which major industries handle community concerns, and also how government responds to queries from communities living next door to the refineries and approving EIAs (environmental impact assessments) regardless of the communities' concerns."

Recently, Engen proposed an increase in their production from 125 000 barrels a day to 150 000 a day, a 20 percent increase.

The community says this will increase overall pollution in the area.

Engen has already purchased all the necessary equipment for the increase, suggesting that they intend going ahead regardless of community's concerns or an approval from government, he said.

"SDCEA would like to see industry take responsibility for and manage existing air, water and soil pollution problems and incidents before proposing any further increases. At present there is no official government emergency plan in place should any of the refineries or storage units accidentally blow up."

A candlelight vigil will be held outside the gates of Engen after the meeting tomorrow.

In response to the meeting and the pamphlet distributed by SDCEA, general manager of the Engen Refinery Mr Wayne Hartman said it was inflammatory.

"The tone and content of SDCEA's pamphlet implies that Engen is responsible for incidences of asthma, cancer, leukemia and other unspecified terminal diseases.

"We categorically refute these allegations and we challenge SDCEA to back up its claims," said Hartman.

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