Grootvlei power station in Mpumalanga. Picture: BLOOMBERG
Grootvlei power station in Mpumalanga. Picture: BLOOMBERG

Greenpeace was “reckless” when it stated Mpumalanga had the worst nitrogen dioxide air pollution across six continents‚ the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said on Monday.

“The NUM in Highveld has noted with utter disgust a reckless statement made by Greenpeace Africa‚” the trade union said. “The reckless and impetuous statement is a clear campaign by Greenpeace Africa that the government should close power stations and coal mines in Mpumalanga.”

Greenpeace Africa climate and energy campaign manager Melita Steele said: “It has been reported before that the Witbank area has the world’s dirtiest air‚ and now this analysis of high-tech satellite data has revealed that Mpumalanga province is the global number one hot spot for nitrogen dioxide emissions.”

Greenpeace analysed data produced by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel 5P satellite from June 1 to August 31. The list of the world’s nitrogen dioxide hot spots consists of places with coal-fired power plants. The data shows Johannesburg and Pretoria are also affected by nitrogen dioxide pollution blown across from Mpumalanga by regular easterly winds.

Steele said it confirms SA has “the most polluting cluster of coal-fired power stations in the world‚ which is both disturbing and very scary”.

NUM said Greenpeace was advancing the interests of rich people and did not care about poor people and workers.

“If the power stations and coal mines are closed in Mpumalanga several towns including Witbank will become ghost towns‚” NUM Highveld secretary Tshilidzi Mathavha said.

“If the power stations and mines are shut down‚ the economy of our country will collapse and the people will be left in darkness.”

NUM also criticised Greenpeace Africa for supporting the implementation of independent power producers (IPPs) by Eskom.

“We are saying and we have said that Eskom is a government entity — if the IPPs have got power to generate‚ let them stand alone and compete with Eskom. The NUM is going to defend these jobs.”

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