Experts to investigate possibly toxic Msunduzi fire

KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube has appointed a team of experts to investigate a fire that broke out on municipal land adjacent to a plastic manufacturing factory at the weekend.

According to Dube-Ncube’s department, the factory was gutted in the fire. The incident happened a few kilometers away from the New England landfill site in uMsunduzi Municipality.

“I have requested a formal report from environmentalists, who have been on-site … Although I am still waiting for this formal report, I must hasten to point out that we won’t hesitate to take action against anyone found responsible for this air pollution [cause by the fire],” Dube-Ncube said in a statement.

The investigation was expedited, as research has revealed that long-term exposure to pollutants such as fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and sulphur dioxide can reduce lung function and cause respiratory illness.

“These pollutants have also been shown to cause a persistent inflammatory response, even in the relatively young and to increase the risk of infection by viruses that target the respiratory tract,” said the provincial Department of Economic Development.

Dube-Ncube recently briefed the Portfolio Committee on Conservation and Environmental Affairs about the importance of clean air during this period of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The department has previously stated that it will focus its efforts on ensuring that the private sector and all spheres of government commit and work together to improve air quality.

“We are stepping up efforts aimed at cutting emissions and cleaning up the air for communities across the province. With many companies getting back to business, we are expecting an increase in air pollution,” said Dube-Ncube.

To deal with air pollution, KwaZulu-Natal is developing a comprehensive Air Quality strategy, which is expected to be concluded around 30 October 2020.

Dube-Ncube said the strategy will be implemented across all municipalities.

“Our long-term plan is to ensure that leaders of society, academics, big corporates, elected public representatives and communities adopt a single strategy for implementation to deal with air pollution,” she said.

Regarding the New England landfill site, the MEC said her department was encouraged by the positive response from a number of communities, who are part of the ‘Love Pietermaritzburg’ initiative. This comes after the department recently presented its plan aimed at turning around the situation at the site.

“We have agreed to work together with representatives of this initiative. They have also offered to share their skills and expertise in the area of waste management,” said Dube-Ncube.

The Ministerial Committee appointed by Premier Sihle Zikalala to work on the New England landfill site will continue to work with all stakeholders to deal with air pollution.

The committee includes Dube-Nube, Finance MEC Ravi Pillay, Transport and Community Safety and Liaison MEC Bheki Ntuli, COGTA MEC Sipho Hlomuka, Mayor of Umsunduzi Municipality Mzimkhulu Thebolla, uMgungundlovu District Mayor Thobekile Maphumulo and the Technical Team of officials representing the three spheres of government. –

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