Air pol­lu­ti­on - a kil­ler

George Herald - - Briewe | Letters - Prof Fran­cois Ha­ne­kom

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.

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