South Durban Community Environmental Alliance
4 June 2003 - World Environment Day
Dying to breathe
"My environment - damaging my life"
Issued by groundWork
For most South Africans World Environment Day will be little different from any other day of the year. Some of us will wake up choking on toxic fumes being emitted from nearby industries, some children will have to reach for their asthma pumps, some factory workers will be exposed to dangerously high levels of poisonous chemicals, some industrial plant somewhere in the country will "accidentally" leak an unlawful amount of some chemical into the environment. The plain truth is that for some of us South Africans the simple act of breathing can be killing us.
"Dying to breathe - the struggle for environmental justice in South Africa" is a groundbreaking new film being launched in Durban tonight. It is a documentary about how the lives of ordinary people living in Sasolburg and South Durban have been turned into a daily struggle for health because of the excessively high levels of air pollution in these two areas.
For this year's World Environment Day, the South African government has chosen as its theme: "My Environment, my Life". It is true that we human beings have life because of the unique environment on Planet Earth - the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the crops we grow.
But increasingly human activities in the pursuit of so-called "development" are having such devastating affects on our environment, that that which should be giving us life is killing us. And the so-called champions of this "development" - many of the world's largest multi-national corporations - are making profits out of destroying the environment and our health.
Cancers, respiratory diseases, birth defects, developmental disorders, behavioural problems, skin rashes, decreased sperm count, immune deficiency and even death are just a few of the consequences of exposure to industrial pollutants.
"Dying to breathe - the
struggle for environmental justice in South Africa" gives faces and
names to many of the victims of industrial pollution in South Africa.
This professional film was produced in a partnership between groundWork,
the Foundation for Human Rights (who funded the project) and Filmmakers
Gillian Schutte and Sipho Singiswa from Hands on Production who
developed and directed this film.
New draft legislation on air quality in South Africa recently came under heavy criticism from civil society groupings, including organisations from Sasolburg and south Durban, for not going far enough to decrease air pollution being emitted from industries.
"Air pollution not only
has devastating affects on the environment and human health - it is also
bad for the economy," said Desmond D'Sa a veteran anti-pollution
campaigner in south Durban and chairperson of the South Durban Community
Caroline Ntaopane of the Sasolburg
Air Monitoring Committee, which is active in taking air samples in the
heavily polluted Sasolburg area directed some of the blame to Sasol: "Whilst
Sasol is filling their pockets with more and more dollars, we living next
to Sasol in Sasolburg have to breath in high levels of benzene and other
dangerous chemicals," she said. "As community members and victims
of pollution we realise that we need to set the record straight and protect
the lives of our children and future generations."
Date: 4th June 2003
For more information please contact: Linda Ambler on 0828951943 or Bobby Peek 0824641383