Deputy Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi to launch Air Quality Monitoring Stations in the Highveld Priority Area

18 August 2008 
 

The Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Ms Rejoice Mabudafhasi, will tomorrow launch second ambient air quality monitoring stations in the Highveld Priority Area at Middelburg Christian School.  The program starts at 09h30.  The first initiative was at the Vaal Triangle in April 2007. 

In winter, major towns such as Witbank, Middelburg, Secunda, Standerton, Edenvale, Boksburg, Benoni and Balfour are literally covered by a blanket of smoke in the mornings and late afternoons. Although much of this low-hanging smoke results from residential coal burning and veld fires, many heavy industries also operate in this area.  This blanket of air pollution results in poor air quality which affects the health and well-being of the residents living in these areas.

As a result of this situation and extensive analysis of air pollution concentrations, on 23rd November 2007 the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism formally declared the Highveld Priority Area as a national air pollution hot spot. The Highveld Priority Area extends from the eastern parts of Gauteng, to Middelburg in the north and the edge of the escarpment in the south and east.

Major towns occurring within this region include Witbank, Middelburg, Secunda, Standerton, Edenvale, Boksburg, Benoni and Balfour (Figure 1). The total area comprises 31,106km2 and has a total population of 3,6 million people.

  

Figure 1: The shaded area represents the formally declared Highveld Priority Area.

Since the declaration of the Priority Area a number of steps have been taken to ensure that air quality management in the Highveld is focused. The establishment of the Highveld Priority Area Air Quality Officer’s Forum (AQOF) has taken place – in which each municipality included in the Priority Area is represented – and nominations for members on the Highveld Priority Area Multi-Stakeholder Reference Group (MSRG) have been called for by the department. These two stakeholder groups will meet frequently during the development stages of the Highveld Priority Area Air Quality Management Plan, and will each play critical roles throughout the development and implementation of the Plan.

In addition, the national Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, and the Mpumalanga Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs (DALA) have procured ambient air quality monitoring stations. DEAT’s stations, funded by the Royal Danish Embassy, are operational in Ermelo, Hendrina, Middelburg, Secunda and Witbank; while DALA’s monitoring stations will be installed in Balfour, Middelburg, Standerton and Witbank.
Wherever possible, these monitoring stations are placed on the premises of schools, so as to facilitate education and awareness for educators and learners. Each monitoring station is equipped with instruments to measure all the criteria pollutants, namely sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, ozone, benzene, lead and carbon monoxide, as well as mercury. The data collected by these stations will be made available to the public on a continuous basis through the internet and regular presentations to the AQOF and MSRG meetings.

This network of monitoring stations will provide crucial baseline data and information, and will be operated continuously into the future to provide a record of ambient air quality before and after the implementation of the Air Quality Management Plan. This network will be able to indicate if the interventions implemented by all stakeholders are in fact being effective in improving air quality in the area.

The media is invited to attend the proceedings and is also welcome to interview the Deputy Minister, MEC and other VIPs.

Programme for launch of air quality monitoring stations

For media queries contact::
Moses Rannditsheni
Media Liaison Officer for the Deputy Minister
012-310 3899
082 448 2450