The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the Department of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries’ (DEFF) decision to convene a stakeholder’s forum, after repeatedly placing it on the DEFF portfolio committee agenda, to address the issues of toxic air pollution that has long beleaguered communities living in the South Durban Basin.
The DA had repeatedly called on DEFF to intervene in the South Durban Basin, including asking for the appearance of the eThekwini Municipality, Engen, SAPREF and other South Durban Stakeholders before the DEFF portfolio committee. Although the appearance engendered robust debate, it yielded little to no results from eThekwini Municipality thereafter. After numerous attempts by DA councillors, NGOs and residents to engage eThekwini Municipality on complaints of severe air pollution and environmental degradation in the area had been met with inaction, a campaign to save the South Durban Basin was launched.
In February of this year, myself and a number of colleagues, DA KZN MPL on Environmental Affairs, Heinz De Boer, and DA South Durban Basin Councillors JP Prinsloo, Sharmaine Sewshanker, Aubrey Snyman, Shad Nowbuth, and Sithembiso Ngema (see picture), as well as a local NGO embarked on an initiative to save the South Durban Basin and put pressure on the municipality and national government to address pollution there.
The DA submitted a series of questions at provincial and national level on the South Durban Basin, including questions around the declaration of the South Durban Basin as a High Priority Area (HPA), whilst simultaneously launching an online petition calling for the following to be immediately implemented:
- Quality data from air quality monitoring stations must be made freely available to the public. This includes the development of an online feedback platform and opportunity for engagement.
- All air monitoring stations must be regularly maintained.
- New air quality monitors must be introduced in problem areas.
- The adverse effects the basin is having on people’s health must be made public.
- Heftier fines must be given to polluters, and the names of polluters must be made public.
The DA had also called for the following interventions and we will be embarking on a project with NGOs and residents to greenify the over-industrialized South Durban Basin through:
- Engagement with eThekwini Municipality to identify spaces for green projects throughout the South Durban Basin.
- A greening strategy and a plan of action to address the reduction/destruction of green spaces.
- Permanent alien invasive removal programmes for all streams and canals in the area.
- Regular clearing of streams and anti-pollution initiatives must be cleared regularly.
The DA recognises that the stakeholder forum is only the first step toward resolving the issues of air pollution and environmental degradation in the South Durban Basin. We will continue to provide oversight by participating in the forum to ensure transparency and fairness and to drive for meaningful outcomes. We do recognise the urgency needed to address the host of health issues faced by South Durban Basin residents and so the stakeholder forum cannot just be a talk-shop. We will continue to fight for the well-being of the South Durban Basin residents and the creation of clean, green spaces.