Picture: Gulshan Khan/The New York Times

Cape Town - An analysis of satellite data has revealed that the world’s largest NO2 air pollution hotspot across the six continents is Mpumalanga in South Africa. 

Mpumalanga has a cluster of twelve coal-fired power plants. The plants have a total capacity of over 32 gigawatts owned by Eskom.

“It has been reported before that the Witbank area has the world’s dirtiest air, and now this analysis of high tech satellite data has revealed that the Mpumalanga province is the global number one hotspot for NO2 emissions. This confirms that South Africa has the most polluting cluster of coal-fired power stations in the world which is both disturbing and very scary” said Melita Steele, Senior Climate and Energy Campaign Manager for Greenpeace Africa.

The satellite data also revealed that Johannesburg and Pretoria are highly affected by extreme NO2 pollution levels.

"Eskom’s coal addiction in Mpumalanga means that millions of people living in Johannesburg and Pretoria are also impacted by the pollution from coal,” continued Steele.

The list of the largest NO2 hotspots in the world includes coal-fired power plants in Germany, India and China. Cities such as Santiago de Chile, London, Paris, Dubai and Tehran feature high in the ranking due to transport-related emissions.

Greenpeace Africa has urged South African government to establish an action plan "with concrete steps, measures and deadlines to make sure that air pollution levels in high priority areas comply with existing regulations."