Following the KwaZulu-Natal’s 2018 Environmental Outlook Report naming the Durban South Basin as one of the hotspots for high air pollution levels, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) in Wentworth decided to hold a Toxic Tour on Wednesday 20 June around the different South Durban Basin communities.

According to Bongani Mthembu who is the GIS and Air Quality Officer at SDCEA as well as the designated tour guide, the Toxic Tour serves as one of the organisation’s initiatives aimed at creating awareness around air and land pollution in and around the Durban South region.

The tour started at Viewpoint in Merebank which overlooks the big oil, petrol-chem and paper refinery industries and navigated around the larger industrial and residential areas of Merebank, Wentworth, Bluff and Fynnlands.

“Some of these industries not only produce large volumes of harmful gases such as Sulphur Dioxide, from the refining of crude oil but also have several pipelines of Petroleum that run below the ground of the surrounding residential areas. This needless to say, poses potential health and environmental threats for the residents as there have been reports of leaks underground, leading to serious health issues for residents,” said Mthembu.

He said that with such concerning incidents happening from time to time it is shocking to know that the city doesn’t have an emergency plan in place that informs the community on what they should do in the case of a crisis.

“We hope that SDCEA will be successful in trying to have this plan implemented by the municipality,” said Mthembu.
Mthembu said one of the refinery industries operating in the area used to release about 80 tons of Sulphur as waste a day but since an urgent intervention by SDCEA, community members and other organisations, the amount of this waste has reduced.

The Jacobs Industrial area, according to Mthembu, also has a host of other small to medium sized industries that produce a number of chemicals and fumes that negatively affect the environment and the health of the people who live nearby.

“We have been working tirelessly to help find solutions to the growing health and environmental threat that plagues this community. We have had petitions and sit-down meetings with officials from the various industries where we have produced scientific facts and results on the pollution in the area. Through our informed research and work with various academia, the most effective solution lies in buying advanced technology that is available overseas that will sufficiently reduce the amount and intensity harmful emissions released into the air that the people breathe,” said Mthembu.