release – 29th December 2002
NGO meets with government officials to tackle Willowton
This week representatives from Pietermaritzburg NGO groundWork and
the Northdale community met with government officials to discuss industrial
air pollution problems being experienced by several Pietermaritzburg communities.
The meeting was called by Bobby Peek, Director of groundWork,
following several complaints received by the NGO about pollution in the
greater Willowton area. The main polluters identified by complainants
were PG Bison and Willowton Cake and Oil Mills.
After sending several letters to the City Health Department and making
numerous phone calls, groundWork requested this meeting, with the
hope that commitments would be made on a plan to reduce pollution emanating
from the greater Willowton area.
The meeting was hosted by Mr Hilton Ryder, the Director of City Health,
and was also attended by other representatives from the local, provincial
and national environmental departments and the Pietermaritzburg Air Quality
This meeting came a week after local residents sent a petition to Minister
Valli Moosa requesting that he intervene to find a solution to reducing
pollution in the Pietermaritzburg area. The petition was signed by 293
residents, mostly from the Northdale, Mountain Rise, Eastwood, Allandale
and Panaroma Gardens areas, which are the worst affected by the industrial
There have also been a number of residents’ meetings held recently to
discuss the pollution problems being experienced. At a pollution awareness
meeting held at the Eddles Sports Club last month, residents expressed
their concerns about the state of air quality governance in the southern
suburbs of Pietermaritzburg. They said there was a lack of information
about complaints logging or feedback to communities by the local municipality
on what steps are being taken to address the problem. They also said that
it seemed like the childrenand the elderly were more ill more often.
A local GP in the area has also claimed that he has witnessed an increase
in respiratory illnesses in the area, which he believes are linked to
exposure to industrial pollutants.
“The meeting was a constructive one and several commitments were made
by the departmental officials to deal more energetically with polluters
in the Pietermaritzburg area,” said Mr Peek. “Some of the steps currently
being taken include conducting a full audit of all industries in the Pietermaritzburg
area, which will focus on checking of permits, boilers, hazards, records,
etc. Also, the Pietermaritzburg Air Quality Forum has purchased a PM10
monitor, which ison PG Bison's premises at present and will be moved around
to different factories and communities, in order to monitor thedust levels.”
Nitasha Baijnath, a qualified environmental health officer and a resident
of Northdale who was also present at the meeting said that she was encouraged
that the residents of Pietermaritzburg were becoming more outspoken about
pollution problems. “I drive through the Willowton area everyday to and
from work and am frequently appalled at the amount of pollution being
emitted from the factories. At nighttime the pollution smells can be quite
nauseating. I have also suffered from migraines and respiratory problems
since moving to the area.”
Pietermaritzburg residents are urged to report pollution problems intheir
areas to city officials in order that they may investigate and deal with
the cause of the pollution. During office hours complaints may be made
to the City Health Department on 395 1344 and after hours at the Fire
Brigade on 395 1364.
Go ahead - make that call!