Our lean, mean, green machine

Published Feb 24, 2004


The "Green Scorpions" will be stinging polluting industries and companies more regularly, Environment Minister Valli Moosa warned on Monday.

Moosa, speaking at the World Congress on Environmental Health in Durban, said police and officials of his department had joined forces last month to arrest an East London property owner for dumping drums of hazardous waste illegally and endangering the health of neighbouring residents.

He said a new Air Quality Bill had been tabled in parliament recently, which would back up the work of department officials who had become known as the Green Scorpions.

He said the Green Scorpions intended to give "much greater priority" to environmental health issues with immediate effect.

Moosa praised non-government environment and community groups for putting the spotlight on environmental health issues in several pollution "hotspots" around the country, particularly the South Durban area.

He said although these groups were often critical of the government's performance in protecting public health, they should be supported and encouraged.

Moosa said environmental health issues could not simply be shelved for the sake of economic expansion.

However, several community groups who protested against industrial pollution on Monday remained sceptical about Moosa's pledge to get tough on pollution.

Moosa left the conference venue during the morning tea break to meet the protesters and also joined them briefly to chant slogans such as: "We don't want no cancer or asthma - we want clean air!"

Presenting a memorandum to Moosa and the conference organisers, South African pollution watchdog Bobby Peek said residents in several parts of the country had been betrayed by Moosa's department, the provincial government and Durban Metro officials.

Peek said several multi-national corporations that were sponsoring the world congress or exhibiting at Durban's international convention centre were driven by greed to maximise profits at the expense of poor communities.

All three tiers of government had failed to challenge multi-national companies over pollution and had allowed the industrial sector to "hold our democracy to ransom through continued pollution and injury to free South Africans".

The government continued

to promote unsafe industrial expansion projects "in collusion with industry", said Peek, who also demanded that the government and industry pay reparations to those communities suffering from the pollution problems caused by multinational corporations.

Related Topics: