According to Greenpeace, highly detailed satellite data has revelead that Mpumalanga, South Africa is the world’s “worst” air pollution hotspot on the planet due to its cluster of twelve coal-fired power plants and South Africa’s “relatively weak” minimum emission standards.
A groundbreaking analysis of satellite data from 1 June to 31 August this year has revealed the world’s largest NO2 (Nitrogen Dioxide) air pollution hotspots across six continents in the most detail to date.
According to the Greenpeace analysis of the data, coal and transport are the two principle sources of air pollution in the world, and Mpumalanga in South Africa tops the chart as the world’s largest NO2 hotspot across six continents.
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) is a dangerous pollutant in and of itself and also contributes to the formation of PM2.5 and ozone, two of the most dangerous forms of air pollution..
Mpumalanga is home to a cluster of twelve coal fired power plants with a total capacity of over 32 gigawatts owned and operated by Eskom.
“It has been reported before that the Witbank area has the world’s dirtiest air, and now this analysis of high tech satellite data has revealed that the Mpumalanga province is the global number one hotspot for NO2 emissions. This confirms that South Africa has the most polluting cluster of coal-fired power stations in the world which is both disturbing and very scary” said Melita Steele, Senior Climate and Energy Campaign Manager for Greenpeace Africa.
The satellite data further reveals that the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria are also highly affected by extreme NO2 pollution levels which blow across from Mpumalanga and into both cities due to close proximity and regular eastwinds.
“This satellite data now confirms that there is nowhere to hide: Eskom’s coal addiction in Mpumalanga means that millions of people living in Johannesburg and Pretoria are also impacted by the pollution from coal”
“Air pollution is a global health crisis, with up to 95% of the world’s population breathing unsafe air. South Africa is a significant global hotspot with its high concentration of coal power stations and its weak air pollution standards. Our Government urgently needs to come up with an action plan that protects millions of people, instead of dirty coal power stations,” continued Steele.
“The Government should also set up an action plan with concrete steps, measures and deadlines to make sure that air pollution levels in high priority areas comply with existing regulations. This means that no new coal-fired power stations can be included in the national electricity plan (IRP 2018), unit 5 and 6 of Kusile coal power plant in Mpumalanga must be cancelled and 50 percent of current coal-fired power stations need to be decommissioned by 2030 in line with the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C” continued Steele.
With hotspots across six continents, the satellite imagery shows the global extent and cross-boundary nature of the crisis. Governments must urgently step up their act and provide clean and healthy air for all.