According to 2016 statistics from the World Bank, air pollution kills 20,000 people in South Africa every year and costs the economy almost R300 million yearly. These numbers are very daunting, and in the past couple of years, have only been growing. Based on NASA satellite imagery, the number of regions affected by air pollution in the country are expanding. As of 2016, the most air-polluted South African cities were Hartebeespoort, Tshwane, and Johannesburg, in that order.
So, now that the problem has been identified, what are these cities doing about the quality of their air?
To many people, Hartebeespoort was not an obvious candidate for the most polluted areas in South Africa. However, it is in between Tshwane and Johannesburg and has many mining operations that poison the air. The Hartebeespoort dam is also the culprit for most of the pollution issues as it has constantly been polluted by sewage and nuclear waste from the nearby Pelindaba nuclear plant. Therefore, the city has focused on cleaning the dam as a way to improve their air quality stand. Johannesburg Water helped to implement a three phase plan that removed waste with hydro jetting machines, a bucket machine, and then block the flow of further incoming waste.
Tshwane is affected by brickwork construction, high vehicle emissions from high ways, and the sue of coal and wood as energy sources. To monitor the air around the metro area, the City of Tshwane adopted seven permanent air-monitoring stations that report to the South African Air Quality Information System. This monitoring system helps to identify the highest concentrations of pollution in the area so that decisionmakers can analyze the source and take action.
It’s no surprise that Johannesburg is on the list. Johannesburg is a densely populated financial capital and the city environment has a serious impact on the air and has increased respiratory issues such as lung cancer and early deaths among residents. However, the city has drastically changed the air quality since the World Bank’s 2016 report and has been declared the country’s most environmentally-friendly metro area. Johannesburg joined 89 other cities in the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and encouraged businesses to implement biogas and solar power initiatives, as well as dual-fuel buses to cut down on carbon emissions. The city has also developed a facility that uses sewage pipes to generate renewable energy and has a plan to reduce green house gas emissions by 65 percent before 2040.
With many metro areas in South Africa, air pollution is a constant problem for the entire country. However, these three highly impacted cities are working to do their part and set an example for the rest of South Africa, and the world.