South Durban Community Environmental Alliance
20 November 2002
On Wednesday, 20 November at 11am, frustrated communities of the South Durban basin (Merebank, Bluff, Wentworth and Ispingo) will stand together in a protest against further air pollution and the use of outdated dirty technology by Biotrace Holdings (Pty) Limited at Mondi Paper Mill in Merebank, Durban. This is in support of SDCEA's recent appeal against the Kwa-Zulu Natal Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs' (DAEA) authorization to Biotrace to construct a multi-fuel fluidised bed combuster at the Anglo-American subsidiary company, Mondi Paper Mill.

There has been much debate about the use of the word "incinerator" to describe the process adopted by Mondi. Essentially, sludge and waste material containing heavy metals and poisonous chemicals such as arsenic, mercury, cyanide and lead will be burnt (incinerated) to produce steam to drive turbines generating electricity. Coal will be used as a supplementary fuel. The SDCEA believe that the use of the word "combuster" is a deliberate ploy by Mondi to cover up its use of incineration which is considered as dirty technology by countries the world over.

The combuster will emit unacceptably high levels of SO2 (sulphur dioxide), NOx (Nitrogen Oxide gases), CO2 (carbon dioxide) and PMs (particulate matter) in an area that is already heavily polluted. These pollutants are known to exacerbate asthma and respiratory disease. Other long term effects on the environment include global warming and climate change. Our constitutional right to an environment to breath air that is not poisoned with harmful pollutants is trampled upon in South Durban.

The record of decision made by DAEA, went ahead without a proper environmental impact assessment for the incinerator, which is considered to be a major hazardous installation (MHI). Biotrace conducted much of the EIA itself, instead of appointing an independent consultant to discharge all its duties under the EIA regulations as required by the law.

Alternative energy options that have the potential to significantly reduce harmful pollutants, such as SASOL gas, were not properly investigated and were excluded from the EIA because Biotrace considered it too expensive. Despite this, Biotrace refused to make a cost-benefit analysis available to the public.

Why is profit being put before the health of the community of South Durban?

We believe that the approval did not take into account their' concerns re health, neither is it keeping with recent environmental conventions, such as World Summit on Sustainable Development and Stockholm Convention as well as South Africa's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol dealing with global warming and climate change. The record of decision is also not in line with national government's Multi-Point Plan to reduce the burning of fossil and other polluting fuels in the South Durban Basin to address high levels of pollution and poor health in South Durban. This policy is a result of community pressure. SDCEA strongly supports the reversal of the record of decision.

Anglo American has defied community wishes by starting construction, despite the fact that the Record of Decision is being appealed against. If MD of Mondi, Mr John Barton continues to ignore communities and bulldozes his way through to completion of the incinerator, this would leave communities no option but to continue protesting, to vigorously pursue their legal challenge of the authorization, and to call on international support against Mondi and Anglo American in areas such as the UK where they are placed on the Stock Exchange.


For comment, please contact Chairperson Desmond D'Sa on 083 982 6939 or (031) 461 1991