6 February 2018

South Africa: Eskom's Other Disaster - How 50 Years of Bad Decisions Led to the Mpumalanga Highveld's Bad Air


It is no accident that around 1,200 people on the Mpumalanga Highveld die from Eskom's emissions every year. It is the result of more than 50 years of bad decisions: ignoring the most basic facts about the risks of air pollution in the area, lax air quality regulation by both the apartheid and the present government, and a stubborn refusal by big polluters such as Eskom to submit to new air quality legislation. While Eskom is being called to account in State Capture investigations, it is also time to look at the immense environmental and health costs it continues to impose on the Mpumalanga Highveld and its people.

Since at least the 1970s scientists have known that the Highveld is one of worst places in the world to build a large number of huge coal-burning power stations, which release enormous amounts of pollution into the atmosphere. The dispersion of pollution needs turbulent skies and strong mixing winds. But the Highveld weather system is the exact opposite. It is characterised by long-lived high pressure systems, which produce a very stable atmosphere with clear skies and low wind speeds, in which pollution can linger without being dispersed.

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