South Africa. A portion of the Highveld region incorporating parts of Gauteng and Mpumalanga have been declared as national air pollution hotspots.
The declaration was officially made on Monday by Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk in terms of the National Environmental Management, Air Quality Act 2004.
The priority area covers a total area of 31 106 square kilometres and the total population in the area is approximately 3.6 million people.
The hotspot is defined as the area that extends from the eastern parts of Gauteng to Middelburg in the north and the edge of the escapement in the south and east.
The major towns which are in this region include Witbank, Middelburg, Secunda, Standerton, Edenvale, Boksburg, Benoni and Balfour.
The report released by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism stated that the portion of the area is contained within the Ekhurhuleni metropolitan municipality, three district municipalities of Sedibeng, Gert Sibande and Nkangala and nine other local municipalities.
It further stated that the area contained several sources of air pollution with a range of industrial mining and agricultural activities.
These included power stations, timber and related industries, metal smelters, petrochemical plants, brick and stone works.
Also included are mines (primarily coal mines), fertiliser and chemical producers, explosives producers, charcoal producers and other small additional industrial operations.
â€œAlthough, in broad terms, South Africaâ€™s air quality is not regarded as being an overall problem, there are many localised areas that suffer extremely poor air quality,â€ the statement said.
The department together with the affected provincial and municipal departments will develop an air quality management plan for the area.
The plan will be aimed at co-ordinating air quality management in the area while addressing issues related to air quality and providing for the implementation of the plan by a committee representing relevant role-players.
In this regard, the minister has allowed the department two years where it would develop the plan to his satisfaction.
To ensure broad participation in the development of the required plan, the department has invited nominations for membership of a multi-stakeholder reference group for the Highveld Priority Area.
The invite included interested and affected business and industry associations, non-governmental organisations, organised labour and community groups.
By Luyanda Makapela