South Durban Community Environmental Alliance
Children Poisoned Daily by Heavy Industry in South Durban

Press Release: 5 October 2000

Embargo: Immediate

The Settler's Primary school located in a "Critical Impact Zone" surrounded by two petro-chemical refineries (Engen and Sapref), Mondi Paper Mill, Southern Sewage Works and also lying in proximity to the Navy/Mobeni and Jacobs Industrial Belts.

The children and educators at Settler's Primary School bear the brunt of the emission releases with daily complaints of stomach cramps, coughing, difficulty in breathing, wheezing, headaches and other symptoms which affect not only their health but their education and athletic abilities (impeded by respiratory problems).

As a result this led the Settlers Primary School to a process of engagement with industry, authority and community-based organisations to obtain immediate resolution to the reported health effects on the children. However, no immediate measures have been undertaken to protect the health of the affected children and the toxic emissions continue unabated.

Most Recent Incidents
These recorded incidents were the most severe of the impacts, notwithstanding that exposure to toxic emissions are ongoing:
1. A power-failure at the Merewent sub-station on the 29th May 2000, led to the shut-down of the refineries which in turn resulted in the flaring of toxic emissions. Children at the school were adversely affected with complaints of nausea, headaches, stomach cramps, etc. (see "complaints log")
2. Two week period from 19th July 2000 to 31st July serious emission that disrupted learning and teaching processes.
3. Two week period from the 1st to 14th August 2000, unbearable nausea that resulting in many learners and teachers vomiting together with headaches, tight chests, dizzy spells, burning sensationon the nose/eyes. Noting that on the 7th August large puffs of smoke in the atmosphere.
4. 25th August 2000 at 10h18 and persisting for more than an hour. Four teacher in the school lost their voices as a result of a severe rotten egg, pungent odour, also affecting learners. Activity at the school has been severely disrupted.
5. 13th September 2000 from 07h30, rotten egg odour (hydrogen sulphide) resulting in tests being disrupted due to ill-health.
6. Wednesday, 4th October 2000, Settlers Primary School documented its worst impacts with severe emissions of pungent, acrid odours which resulted in educators and children being seriously ill with bouts of vomiting, nausea, headaches, etc.

Polluting industries have and continue to externalise their pollution onto the surrounding communities who can least afford to bear such costs. The direct costs being health and environmental and the indirect cost being education. The inability of children to concentrate due to health effects and the general ill-health, has and is setting back learning processes.

Learners at the Settler's Primary School are seriously disadvantaged educationally and athletically and are undermined and abused by the surrounding polluting industries, who have been allowed by authorities to flagrantly violate people's constitutional and human rights.

To date not a single industry has been penalised by the authorities and forced to control their down drafting. Industry must be held accountable and take responsibility for all externalities that impact on the health, environment and lives of people. It is imperative that urgent action be taken to ensure that cleaner technology is enforced in South Durban with the aim of protecting people's constitutional and human rights.

The children of Settlers Primary School are but many of the countless victims of industrial pollution. However, as a "Critical Impact Zone" and the added effects of disruption to education and learning processes calls for critical government intervention.


Michelle Simon on 461-1991 or 083-520-7078
Desmond D'Sa
Lawrence Vartharajulu (Settlers Primary School)