Cut in Sulphur Dioxide missions falls short for eco-warriors
Cape Town - Environmental activists are concerned about the new amendment made to reduce the minimum standard for the toxic sulphur dioxide emissions produced at power stations.
Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy announced the amendment of the minimum emission standards for Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) emissions on Friday.
The amendment aims to reduce emissions from 3500mg/Nm3 to 1000mg/Nm3 instead of the 500mg/Nm3 which was due to come into effect on April 1.
Climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Africa Bukelwa Nzimande said the doubling of the minimum emissions standards would allow an increase of deaths every year.
“There is nothing in the world that can justify the government's decision to approve a further 3300 deaths every year. In a time of great fear and uncertainty, South Africa needs to see that the government has the courage and political will to address issues that have threatened and now have express permission to continue to threaten our livelihood,” she said.
Nzimande said there was evidence that air pollution exposure can lead to increased incidence and severity of some respiratory infections. Doubling the SO2 limits amid the Covid-19 pandemic was nothing short of irresponsible, and a flagrant disregard for the health and humanity of the country's citizens.
In the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries statement, it said: “When the amendment is implemented, the revised limit of 1000mg/Nm3 will achieve a 58% reduction in total emissions. It will significantly improve compliance compared to the current state of air, in which sulphur dioxide emissions are measured at 3500/Nm and above.”
The department said the current financial situation of both Eskom and Sasol has made the 500mg/Nm3 standard emissions achievement in the near future unlikely.
“It is still of critical importance that both companies commit to a path that set their facilities on the road to a vastly reduced level of emissions,” it said.
Extinction Rebellion spokesperson Michael Wolf said: “Government is supposed to act in line with our Constitution, which warrants a healthy and safe environment for all our people. Further relaxing the already highly insufficient regulation to limit deadly sulphur dioxide emissions means that thousands more are going to die as a direct result of inhaling the toxic gas.”
He said the fossil fuel industry was fighting to do business as usual even though burning of fossil fuels kills.