Network set up to monitor Highveld air quality

Posted by Laura Grant on August 25, 2008
Posted in Green News

Anybody driving into Joburg on a winter’s morning will have seen the air pollution that obscures the city skyline. It’s particularly bad in the mornings and late afternoons and, according to the department of environmental affairs and tourism (DEAT), much of it is caused by residential coal burning and veld fires. The area is also home to many heavy industries.

As part of plans to improve the air quality in the area, DEAT has set up ambient air quality monitoring stations, funded by the Royal Danish Embassy, in Ermelo, Hendrina, Middelburg, Secunda and Witbank. Others will be installed in Balfour, Middelburg, Standerton and Witbank, says DEAT in a media statement. Each monitoring station is equipped with instruments to measure pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, ozone, benzene, lead and carbon monoxide, as well as mercury.

The monitoring stations are placed in schools, where possible, to facilitate education and awareness.

On November 23 2007 the Highveld Priority Area was declared a national air pollution hot spot. The area extends over more than 30,000 square kilometres and includes the towns of Witbank, Middelburg, Secunda, Standerton, Edenvale, Boksburg, Benoni and Balfour, with a total population of 3.6-million people.

Steps have been taken to ensure that air quality management in the Highveld is focused, says DEAT in a media statement. An Air Quality Officer’s Forum (AQOF) has been estabished – in which each municipality included in the priority area is represented – and nominations for members on the Highveld Priority Area Multi-Stakeholder Reference Group (MSRG) have been called for by the department. These two stakeholder groups will meet frequently and will  play critical roles throughout the development and implementation of the air quality management plan for the area.

The network of monitoring stations will be able to indicate if the interventions implemented by all stakeholders are being effective in improving air quality in the area.

The data collected by the air quality monitoring stations will be made available to the public on a continuous basis through the internet and regular presentations to the AQOF and MSRG meetings, the department says.

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