Air pollution - a killer
Georgians were recently exposed to the threat of highly polluted air brought about by wildfires. This leads me to the fact that air pollution kills more than 20 000 people in South Africa every year. It costs the economy up to R300million, according to research by the World Bank. The bank's report, Air Pollution: Strengthening the Economic
Case for Action, stated that air pollution worldwide kills 5,5 million annually, making it one in every 10 deaths worldwide; thus in the fourth place for premature deaths.
In terms of expense, premature deaths cost the world economy R3-trillion in lost working hours annually. This does not even refer to additional costs, like medical expenditures. World Bank calculations indicate that total costs to the world economy may be R70trillion a year. Worst-hit are developing countries with
90% of global premature deaths, continuously exposing populations to dangerous levels of air pollution. A report in India has it that, by breathing the city air in one of the five worst Indian urban nodes, one is forced to the pollution intake level of a chain-smoker. The health risk, as already mentioned, goes hand-in-hand with a strong drag on development. Illness and premature death (on a threatening scale) disrupt productivity and reduce national income in these countries. Many eager developing countries suffer as much of their quest for development is based on coalfired power stations - severe polluters. China and India remain in the top bracket for air pollution as they are inclined, at this stage of their development, to rely much on energy from coal-fired power generation. Old people and the poorest are disproportionately affected. The poor is more exposed and less able to avoid the bad effects. The researchers emphasise that this part of the population gets stuck - continuously too sick to work and unable to afford medication - adding to the vicious circle. The bank concluded: air pollution threatens basic human welfare, damages natural and physical capital, and constrains economic growth. South Africa has the administrative and legal pillars to stand up against air pollution. It is made possible by the "Clean Air Act". This legislation includes responsibility right down to municipal level. A local authority may in terms of by-laws "identify substances or mixtures of substances in ambient air which, through concentrations, bioaccumulation, deposition or in any other way, present a threat to health, well-being or the environment in the municipal area". If such identifications present a threat, in terms of the reasonable judgement by the municipality, these may be acted against. Local standards for emissions from point, non-point or mobile sources in the municipal area may then be drafted to secure safety measures, or stop the dangerous procedures in totality. In drafting our basic legal framework, we were well assisted by internationally experienced experts. The question remains whether we have the ability, knowledge and will to apply. Or will it increasingly become a situation where it is not their singing, but the coughing of birds, that wakes us up? (Gaapgert, thanks for believing everything I write, but the last statement is not based on science.) Our World/Ons wêreld appears every second week.