2W – Air pollution in SA cities

Supporting article W: A close look at the air above one of our major cities and some helpful advise on what could be done individually to lessen the impact.



The quality of the Durban Metropolitan Area’s (DMA) air appears to be generally good with important exceptions including the Durban South Basin. Growing numbers of motor vehicles and industrial development are likely to negatively impact on the industrialised Durban South Basin area. Concern has been raised that air pollution is possibly impacting on the health of sensitive people (i.e. the elderly, children and people with respiratory problems) in the Durban South Basin. It may also be impacting on soil and water quality as well as contributing to global warming. Responses to air pollution issues include reduced industrial emissions, air quality monitoring systems, improved legislative and institutional mechanisms, the promotion of co-operation agreements between stakeholders to reduce emissions, and the proposed development of a metropolitan policy on air quality management.

What are the Pressures?
The two main sources of air pollution in the DMA are emissions from industrial processes and motor vehicles. Growing numbers of motor vehicles and continued industrial development are placing increasing pressure on the DMA’s air quality. Durban’s calm winter weather conditions contribute to air pollution problems by preventing the dispersion of pollutants.

What is the State?
The quality of air in the DMA appears to be generally good. Information currently available on air quality is, however, poor. There are important areas of local concern, such as Durban South Basin, where there are relatively high concentrations of pollutants in the air such as sulphur dioxide. The high frequency of odour complaints in the Durban South Basin is also a cause for concern.

What is the Impact?
Air pollution in the heavily industrialised areas of  the DMA is likely to be contributing to respiratory diseases in residents, particularly children, the elderly, asthmatics and people with existing breathing diseases. Depositions from polluted air can also salinise and acidify soils and water with negative impacts on plant and animal life. The emission of greenhouse gases from the DMA is also contributing to global warming. Neither of these effects are thought to be significant at this time. Other impacts of poor air quality include structural corrosion, poor visibility and general nuisance but again, these impacts are limited.

What is the response?
Various national, provincial and local authority departments are responsible for controlling air pollution. Several initiatives to manage air pollution more efficiently are being implemented. These include: reducing industrial emissions, improved air quality monitoring systems, developing an inventory of emission sources, using computerised modelling, and improving legislative and institutional mechanisms.

What can you do?
• Ensure that your vehicle is fitted with a catalytic converter if you use unleaded fuel
• Ensure that your motor vehicle is properly tuned and serviced
• Use public transport if possible or join a lift club
• Lobby your employer to start a “work-from-home” scheme
• Make queries telephonically rather than in person
• Compost your garden waste rather than burning it
Plan your car trips so they are as short and effective as possible