SA losing the fight against air pollution: Less than 20% of air quality monitoring stations are reporting data

Issued by Hannah Shameema Winkler MP – DA Member on the Portfolio Committee on Forestry, Fisheries and Environment
01 Nov 2023 in News

The revelations in the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) portfolio committee meeting regarding the dismal state of South Africa’s air quality monitoring network are alarming and require urgent intervention.

Of the 130 government-controlled air quality monitoring stations across the country, 21 stations are not operational at all whilst 84 are operational but failing to adequately report data. This leaves only 25 operational stations that are adequately reporting data according to national regulations.

This is a clear violation of the Air Quality Act, which mandates the monitoring and reporting of air quality to ensure the protection of human health and the environment. The government’s inability to maintain these critical facilities is a direct threat to public health and safety.

The South African Weather Service (SAWS), responsible for air quality monitoring stations in the highveld priority area, is currently procuring a backup energy supply to ensure that data is available. However, the lack of a clear timeframe for when this backup will be operational, especially for the 15 stations in the Highveld Priority Area—a region known for its poor air quality—is unacceptable. The DA demands transparency, accountability, and expedited action to rectify this grave situation.

The Air Quality Act stipulates the responsibilities of government bodies in ensuring clean air and the protection of public health. The Act requires the monitoring of air quality and the dissemination of information to the public, as well as the implementation of air quality management plans to ensure compliance with national standards. The current situation, wherein 84 of the 109 stations are non-operational, is a flagrant disregard of these legal obligations.

The DA is calling for immediate intervention by the DFFE and SAWS to address the failures in our air quality monitoring network. We call for:

  • A detailed action plan with clear timelines for the restoration of all non-operational air quality monitoring stations;
  • Transparency in the procurement process for the necessary backup energy, ensuring that it is conducted efficiently and free from corruption;
  • Immediate attention to the Highveld Priority Area, given its known air quality issues, to protect the health and wellbeing of the communities residing in this region; and
  • A comprehensive review of the management and maintenance of the air quality monitoring network to prevent such failures in the future

South Africa is failing in its war against air pollution. The DA will not stand idly by as the health of our citizens is put at risk. We will continue to hold the government accountable and demand the implementation of robust and effective air quality management to ensure a clean, healthy environment for all.

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