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Protesters march for environmental justice

By Vusi Xaba | 2010-10-14 07:26:10.0

ENVIRONMENTAL and civil society organisations heard yesterday that air pollution was the main cause of death in areas close to industries that depend on the emission of greenhouse gases.

This emerged when an environmental activist group, Earthlife Africa, marched to Sasol's offices in Rosebank, Johannesburg, to observe Global Climate Justice Day, which is held annually on October 12.

Earthlife accuses the petroleum giant of being one of the worst polluters of the earth through its greenhouse gas emissions.

Earthlife chose Sasol because it said it was one of SA's worst polluters. Earthlife enjoyed the support of social movements and labour organisations that included Cosatu, the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee, the South African Council of Churches, the Anti-Privatisation Forum and the Youth and Climate Change Forum.

The SACC's Reverend Gift Moerane said more than 300 people died in the Vaal each week because of air pollution-related diseases. He said the biggest cemetery in Evaton, scheduled to be used until 2014, closed three years ago because it was full.

"Every week we bury no less than 300 people who die due to sicknesses related to air pollution. A new cemetery in Rust teVaal is already closed," Moerane said.

Sasol is surrounded by steel and chemical producing industries such as Arcelor-Mittal.

He also took a swipe at township residents who chopped trees, but attributed this problem to high charges for power, which left them with no choice but to use trees as a form of fuel.

Earthlife programmes manager Makoma Lekalakala said Sasol was one of the worst polluters of the earth. She told the crowd that the company was responsible for 20percent of the country's carbon footprint. Scientists blame carbon emissions for climate change, which leads to extreme weather patterns.

"Climate change causes hunger because it results in conditions such as drought, which make it difficult to grow food," Lekalakala said.

Sasol spokesperson Nothemba Noruwana said they had invited Earthlife to discuss the issue but "to date they have declined invitations".