groundWork is a non-profit environmental justice service and developmental organization working primarily in Southern Africa in the areas of Climate & Energy Justice, Coal, Environmental Health, Global Green and Healthy Hospitals, and Waste.
Global Green and Healthy Health Systems side event at World Health Congress
Durban, South Africa, 24 October 2016 – Health care institutions from around the globe will gather on Sunday at the Durban ICC for the start of the 40th World Health Congress, under the International Hospital Federation. The importance of environmentally healthy health care will intersect with this year’s congress theme “Addressing the Challenge of Patient-Centred Care and Safety” at a side event hosted by international health network Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) in partnership with its South African member groundWork.
On 31 October, the side event “Leadership for Sustainability” will bring together hospital leaders from Africa that have voluntarily joined the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network (GGHH) – a project under HCWH – as well as other leading international health care experts to share approaches to low-carbon, sustainable health care ideas and systems.
Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 20 October 2016 – From 24 to 28 October, UN negotiations that could provide a historic opportunity for justice and an end to corporate impunity will resume in Geneva.
The talks are taking place in a critical context of global climate, biodiversity, financial, food and humanitarian crises, for which transnational corporations are largely responsible, but which impact the vulnerable most, mainly people in the Global South. Companies’ operations systematically result in environmental crimes, and the intimidation of activists defending their rights and the environment. Just last week, a community leader of Honduras’ COPINH movement, which has been at the forefront of the grassroots opposition to the controversial Agua Zarca and other hydro projects for many years, suffered yet another assassination attempt.
“A legally binding instrument to control transnational corporations with respect to human rights and provide victims of corporate abuse with justice is long overdue. What is currently happening in Honduras is just one of the many examples of the systemic rights violations suffered by activists and communities on a daily basis around the world. Transnational companies and their international financiers are responsible for these violations. We call on governments to stand with social movements and affected people worldwide to demand a binding Treaty and engage constructively in this new round of negotiations”, said Lucia Ortiz, Friends of the Earth International.
Cape Town and Pietermaritzburg, 5 October 2016 - Poorly-regulated mining and coal-fired power generation in South Africa are responsible for air and water pollution, destruction of arable land, and biodiversity loss, violating the human rights of many communities, including their rights to life, health, water, food, culture and a healthy environment. Despite the human rights harms of mining and of coal-burning, the South African government is not enforcing the relevant environmental standards, and allows excessive pollution to continue. Government has also allowed the mining industry to be one of the least transparent industries in SA.
This dire situation has increased public opposition to mining projects. Tragically, the response has been a pattern of harassment and violence against opponents exercising their human rights to freedom of expression and assembly. In March 2016, a culture of intimidation and violence around a proposed mine in the Eastern Cape led to the assassination of Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe, a leader of the opposition to the proposed mineral-sands mine near his community. To date, no one has been brought to justice for this crime.
These concerns form the basis of a submission made by a group of civil society organisations to the United Nations’ (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC) on Wednesday 5 October 2016, in preparation for its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of SA, which is set to take place in Geneva, in March 2017.
The participants in a dialogue to build unity, solidarity and learning, concerning fracking and the expansion of fossil fuels, held in the Eastern Cape town of Matatiele on the 3rd and 4th of October 2016, have released a statement which you can read here.
Matatiele, South Africa, 03 October 2016 – Communities who stand to be affected by unconventional gas exploration and extraction in South Africa – namely in the KwaZulu Natal, Eastern Cape and Free State Provinces – and those who are currently fighting existing or proposed mines across the country will be meeting from 3rd to 5th of October in Matatiele, Eastern Cape.
Durban, South Africa, 23 September 2016 – The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) Oceans and Coasts section has stopped, with immediate effect, all toxic waste leachate waste from being tankered by EnviroServ from its Shongweni landfill site to the Southern Waste Water Plant destined for the ocean.
In the future, permits will have to be sought by Ethekwini from the DEA – Oceans and Coasts – who have instigated research and analysis to take informed decisions on the standards and guidelines for waste and toxic emissions into the sea.
The DEA also confirmed that investigations are currently underway into alleged criminal activities of EnviroServ for submission to the National Prosecuting Authority.
Mtubatuba & Kwambonambi, South Africa, Wednesday, 21 September 2016 – Communities from the different coal fields in South Africa will for the next three days meet at the heart of KwaZulu Natal’s coal struggle to exchange information and experiences and build solidarity.
Over a decade ago, the Somkhele community welcomed the Petmin coal mine in the hope of employment, which to this day remains a largely unfulfilled promise. Within the same area, the Fuleni community has for the last two years been resisting Ibutho Coal’s coal mine proposed for the border of the Hluhluwe/Mfolozi Game Reserve.
Communities from Johannesburg, the Highveld and the Waterberg will join their KwaZulu Natal compatriots from Newcastle and Xolobeni in visiting Somkhele and Fuleni. The Kwambonambi and Mtubatuba areas in northern KwaZulu Natal show the brutal evidence of how coal has created environmental injustices and increased poverty, and how the promise of development through mining has failed society.
Durban, South Africa, 15 September 2016 – In its latest communication with the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) regarding its problematic Shongweni landfill site – the source of 300 complaints in one week in August – EnviroServ has called statements by the environmental justice watchdog “sensational and factually incorrect”.
Residents of Hillcrest, Shongweni, Waterfall, KwaNdengezi and Dassenhoek have since December 2015 been complaining of malodour emanating from the Shongweni landfill site, allegedly causing “asthma, nausea, vomiting and bronchitis”. Together with the SDCEA and members of these communities, pressure has been placed both on the company and the Department of Environmental Affairs with little success – as the problem continues today.
Alarm was further sounded when it was announced that EnviroServ received authorisation from the department in an 11 point plan to dump approximately 27 million litres of toxic waste leachate into the ocean through the Southern Sewerage Works.
Cape Town, 6 September 2016 - 30 civil society organisations wrote an open letter to the Ministers of Public Enterprises, Energy, Environmental Affairs, and Health, expressing their alarm at recent statements and actions by Eskom management. This related particularly to Eskom’s statements on renewable energy and the implications thereof for climate justice, but also to Eskom’s failure to disclose records that provide evidence of steps taken to reduce air pollution that damage people’s health.
MONEY HIDDEN IN TAX HAVENS COULD POWER SOUTH AFRICA AND HALF THE WORLD WITH 100% RENEWABLE ENERGY - Time for G20 to act.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Pietermaritzburg, South Africa– 2 September 2016 – Globally every year up to $600 billion dollars of government tax revenue is lost through tax avoidance alone. In a new report, launched today, Friends of the Earth International calculates that government revenue lost to tax havens over a 15-year period could power Africa, Latin America and much of Asia with 100% renewable energy.
Cape Town, 01 September 2016 - On Tuesday, 23 August 2016, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA), represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), instituted legal proceedings in the Pretoria High Court to set aside the environmental authorisation for the proposed 1200MW Thabametsi coal-fired power station near Lephalale in the Limpopo province.
ELA has asked the court to review and set aside the Department of Environmental Affairs’ decision to authorise the proposed power station, as well as the Minister of Environmental Affairs’ March 2016 decision to uphold that authorisation on appeal.
Although the Minister upheld the authorisation on appeal, she also required Thabametsi to conduct a climate change impact assessment for the power station – a first for a proposed coal-fired power station in South Africa. That climate change impact assessment is currently underway.
ELA and CER have always maintained that the power station could not have been authorised in the absence of an assessment of the climate change impacts.
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