Greenpeace and NUM scrap over air pollution in Mpumalanga

The National Union of Mineworkers is at loggerheads with Greenpeace.
The National Union of Mineworkers is at loggerheads with Greenpeace.
Image: FILE

Ignoring air pollution puts people’s lives on the line.

Greenpeace Africa said this on Monday in response to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) describing its reports about air pollution due to coal power stations in Mpumalanga as “reckless”.

“It is in the interests of all South Africans‚ of all ages and economic backgrounds‚ to breathe clean air. It is particularly important for our children‚ who are most vulnerable to the devastating health impacts of breathing polluted air‚” Greenpeace Africa climate and energy campaign manager Melita Steele said.

NUM called Greenpeace “reckless” after it said an analysis of satellite data showed that Mpumalanga had the worst nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution across six continents.

“The reckless and impetuous statement is a clear campaign by Greenpeace Africa that the government should close power stations and coal mines in Mpumalanga‚” the trade union said.

Greenpeace analysed data produced by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel 5P satellite from June 1 to August 31. The list of the world’s nitrogen dioxide hotspots consists of places with coal-fired power plants. The data showed that Johannesburg and Pretoria were also affected by NO2 pollution blown across from Mpumalanga by regular easterly winds.

Steele believes it would be “reckless” to withhold information about air pollution from the public.

“The true cost of coal is devastation at every step‚ and our deadly reliance on coal is literally killing us. Renewable energy can light the way to a better future‚ but we have to choose it now.”

NUM accused Greenpeace of advancing the interests of rich people and not caring about poor people and workers.

“If the power stations and coal mines are closed in Mpumalanga several towns‚ including Witbank‚ will become ghost towns‚” said NUM Highveld secretary Tshilidzi Mathavha.

NUM also criticised Greenpeace Africa for supporting the implementation of Independent Power Producers (IPPs) by Eskom.

“We are saying and we have said that Eskom is a government entity‚ if the IPPs have got power to generate‚ let them stand alone and compete with Eskom.”

Greenpeace Africa invited NUM to engage with them about moving to greener jobs to protect people and workers in the sector.

“The South African government needs to get behind renewable energy‚ particularly in the coal belts‚ to replace dirty coal power stations and create new jobs and opportunities with clean renewable energy.”

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