Book explores impact of coal-fired power stations on the local economy, population, farming communities and the climate.
Despite South Africa’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels and concerns raised by the World Health Organisation about the impact of air pollution on communities, there is still a dearth of research and accountability.
While South Africa has several areas hit by severe air pollution, especially around Eskom’s coal-fired power plants in Mpumalanga and Limpopo, and the industrial facilities run by Sasol and ArcelorMittal in southern Gauteng and Mpumalanga – these companies are exempt from the law requiring measures to reduce pollution.
But now, local award-winning photojournalist Daylin Paul is airing the dirty laundry of these culprits.
Speaking ahead of his photo exhibition and book launch in Johannesburg next week, Paul said that although the toxic air was not solely caused by Eskom, its cluster of 12 coal-powered stations in Mpumalanga were the biggest source of nitrogen dioxide pollution in the world.
Picture: Devlin Paul
“Eskom’s 12 power stations as well as the Sasol Synfuels plant in Secunda have made the air [quality] on the Highveld among the worst in the world,” Paul told The Citizen.
This not only affected the health of the people of Mpumalanga, where tuberculosis, sinusitis, asthma and other respiratory diseases were prevalent, it also exacerbated global climate change because of the greenhouse gas emissions.
“Additionally, water sources like the Olifants catchment, which is crucial for the water security of the hinterland of South Africa, are also heavily polluted by these industries.
“Yet, despite the billions being made in these sectors, the people who live closest to these mega-enterprises often benefit the least from their operations in the Highveld.”
The winner of the prestigious Ernest Cole Award in 2017, Paul launched his debut book, Broken Land, at an exhibition of his photographs at the KwaZulu-Natal Society of the Arts gallery.
Following on from his eye-opening exhibition, Paul’s book explores the impact of these coal-fired power stations on the local economy, population, farming communities and the climate.
A graduate of Rhodes University who has worked as a photographer for leading news publications as well as local and international non-governmental organisations and development agencies, Paul said he hoped his book and photo exhibition would make people realise the true cost of coal-fired electricity stations and government’s many failures in the energy sector.
“I sincerely hope my work makes people understand that a catastrophe is unfolding in our backyard and we aren’t paying attention.
“I want people to realise that climate change and pollution are human rights issues, not just environmental issues. And that we need to urgently start holding our leaders to account, and start making the preparations and changes necessary to mitigate and survive the coming climate catastrophe.”
Daylin Paul’s launch of his book, Broken Land, and accompanying photo exhibition will take place next week in Johannesburg.
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