Nicholas Kasa – SASOL
The Bucket Brigade system is a simple method of testing the air and that
is the acceptable way. It has been a simple way of trying to engage our
community. Nicholas Kasa, chairperson of Sasolburg Environmental Committee
in Zamdela township, with his group, conducts an environmental awareness
campaign in their area on a voluntary basis.
Bobby Peek, the director
of GroundWork says the Bucket Brigade is a good way to galvanise locals
into action and to get them involved in solving some of the hot pollution
issues that surrounds them. It is called taking charge of one’s own destiny.
Bobby Peek - GroundWork
I think you must remember we come out of an Apartheid era, a colonial
era where environment was seen as the open green spaces. It was seen as
saving the hippopotamus and the elephant. There is nothing wrong with
that, but our new constitution says that we have a right to a healthy
and clean environment. Therefore our environment now has to be redefined
as something that effects people. The Bucket Brigade is in fact the brainchild
of the American based environmental protection body, Global Community
Monitor. It was brought to South Africa by GroundWork, a local NGO that
tackles human rights and environmental issues.
This is a plastic bag that will be used to capture the air. It is like
our lung. Through a vacuum it sucks air into it and before we put this
into the bucket we will open the valve. So, this valve is open, but no
air is coming in because the other valve is closed. We then put the bag
into the bucket and seal the bucket. The bag is now filling up with air.
We will do this for about one minute until that bag has about eight to
twelve litres of air. Then we close the valve and there we have the air.
The bag is packed into a mailbox, custody forms are filled in to ensure
security and then immediately sent to a laboratory in America. The air
samples are then tested within 72 hours.
Bucket Brigade took their fist air sample in May 2000 at the SASOL chemical
plant – a major source of pollution in the Vaal Triangle area. Results
indicated that there was a total of seventeen different types of chemicals
present in the sample, even those that experts say can cause cancer in
humans. Subsequently three different studies by the chemical plant, NASA,
and the University of Leeds in the Uk have confirmed the presence of these
Rayaan Adriaanse When you enter the Zamdela township, which is part of
the SASOL chemical plant in the Northern Freestate, one of the first signs
that greet you is this one behind me – ‘we put as much into the community
as we do into our petrol, SASOL’. Now, I would find that quite ironic
since air pollution is one of their foremost problems.
Nicholas Kasa TB, asthma, cancer, respiratory problems, eye irritations,
skin problems, and so on – these are the general problems that we do find
Alice Bonani complains that they have to cope daily, not only with foul
air, but also a black dust that chokes up everything. She says her family
is not safe even inside the sanctity of her home. The Bucket Brigade uses
all sorts of ways to reach their audience. It might be a play, but the
message is dead serious.
Alex Persent – Community Monitoring Association The purpose is to go
and try and educate the residents on how to go about monitoring their
own environment – especially air pollution.
The Bucket Brigade system is also active in a township on the Highveld.
They have now set up and implemented an environmental awareness campaign
for the whole of the eastern Highveld region in another hotspot for pollution
Alex Persent We believe that any human being here does qualify for the
clause in the constitution which says we’ve got a right to clean air and
a clean environment. Basically that is what we want.
Alex Persent, chairman of the Highveld East Community Monitoring Association
say they are making sure that resident know that it is a basic right to
have a clean and healthy environment and confronts the government and
polluters when deemed necessary.
Rayaan Adriaanse I can personally testify that there must be something
wrong with the air in this area. My throat feels very dry, my tongue feels
very thick and there’s a constant burning sensation in my nose. When Lettia
Masoque developed chronic asthma and ulcers her doctor advised her to
stop smoking, and could not believe it when she told him she had never
smoked in her life.
Lettia Masoque – Chris Hani Settlement, Secunda Die wind bring die rook
en dan word ek siek. Dit is baie skerp hier by my en dan hierso by my
longe voel ek sleg.
The Bucket Brigade has made their data known of high levels of pollution
to SASOL management. Gerrit Kornelius, a senior officer at the monitoring
section acknowledge that their plants are emitting high levels of pollution,
but claims they are within legal requirements.
Gerrit Kornelius - SASOL If we compare the values that we get here to
the WHO standards for those gases, an for all of those gases, except one,
we are within the WHO standards. The one that we’re not within the standards
is hydrogen sulphide, which is actually not a health problem but a nuisance
problem because it doesn’t smell nice.
He says they are constantly looking into ways to reduce pollution and
the possibility of changing their furnaces from coal to natural gas. They
also use highly sophisticated technology to monitor pollution levels continuously.
Gerrit Kornelius This is a vacuum flask. All the air gets pumped out.
When we want to sample we just open the valve and it takes a sample over
eight hours. That sample gets sent to Potchefstroom University and they
analyse it for us. Then we can see all the hydro-carbon components that
are presenting the air.
Further studies indicate another source of pollution in the area is domestic
coal stoves. In winter the area is engulfed in a blanket of smog that
burns the mucus and irritates the eyes.
One the one hand we need industry to grow and provide jobs, on another
generations grow up under these poor conditions and will have less quality
life. Is that the price the poor have to pay? No, says the Bucket Brigade,
what is needed is constant pressure on industries to clean up their act
and Government to ensure a healthy environment for all to live in.
Contact: GroudWork, Tel: (033) 342-5662, Fax: (033) 342-5665, PO Box
2375 Pietermaritzburg 3200
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