Greenpeace says an analysis of sophisticated satellite data shows Mpumalanga as the “worst” nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution hotspot across six continents.
“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‚” said Melita Steele‚ senior climate and energy campaign manager for Greenpeace Africa‚ on Monday.
“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.”
The satellite data used in the analysis was taken from June 1 to August 31. It shows that Johannesburg and Pretoria are also affected by NO2 pollution‚ which is blown across from Mpumalanga by regular easterly winds.
The list of the world’s nitrogen dioxide hotspots is made up of places where there are coal-fired power plants – in South Africa‚ Germany and India‚ as well as nine coal-powered industrial clusters in China.
Cities such as Santiago in Chile‚ London‚ Paris‚ Dubai and Tehran in Iran also feature high on the list due to transport-related emissions.
“Air pollution is a global health crisis‚ with up to 95% of the world’s population breathing unsafe air‚” said Steele.
“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.”
The research is based on new‚ publicly available data produced by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel 5P satellite. Greenpeace said an instrument on board the satellite had been “providing data on NO2 levels in the atmosphere with unprecedented detail and accuracy since June 1 2018.”