Power utility, Eskom, has declared an emergency as four generating units developed ‘technical problems’.
Eskom spokesperson, Andrew Etzinger, has requested large industrial consumers to reduce their electricity consumption by 10 percent.
Etzinger states that as per regulatory protocols available to Eskom, they have declared an emergency, which requires all large industrial users to reduce their load.
To read the article titled, “Eskom declares electricity supply emergency,” click here.Source:Mail and Guardian
Survival International, a British-based NGO, says the world should pay attention to the potential threat that hydraulic fracturing for gas has for the indigenous Khoisan people of Botswana.
The organisation, which aims to protect the rights of indigenous tribes, reported yesterday that large parts of Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve – home to Africa’s last hunting Khoisan – had been opened up to international companies for the controversial practice of fracking.
It warns that if the Botswana government’s plans go ahead, it could be the first country in Southern Africa to carry out the extraction of gas from deep underground.
To read the article titled, “Fracking puts Khoisan at risk, claims NGO,” click here.Source:The Post
According to Wagdy Sawahel, while a fierce debate rages about fracking in South Africa and elsewhere, the Botswana government has been silently pushing ahead with plans to produce natural gas, keeping the country in the dark as it grants concessions over vast tracts of land, including half of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve - the ancestral home of the San.
Sawahel says that a new documentary film - the High Cost of Cheap Gas - has uncovered incontrovertible evidence that drilling and fracking are underway in Botswana and that international companies are planning massive gas operations in the future.
However, he says that there has been little attempt to inform the public, despite growing international concerns about the harmful effects of natural gas production.
To read the article titled, “Fracking the Kalahari,” click here.Source:All Africa
Eskom has publicly apologised to three environmental non-governmental organisation – Greenpeace, groundWork and Earthlife Africa - after it was accused of spying on them.
Eskom chief executive, Brian Dames, argues that the use of private companies to gather intelligence from stakeholders is unacceptable and not how Eskom does business.
“To the extent that this may have happened as a consequence, even if unintended, is regrettable and Eskom apologises for this,” he explains.
To read the article titled, “Eskom apologises for spying on NGOs,” click here.Source:News 24
If energy companies and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) are successful, the Karoo a semi-desert wilderness, will soon be home to scientists and geologists mapping out shale gas fields touted as game-changers for Africa's biggest economy, and determining whether fracking will work here.
The fracking process is incurring challenges from multiple opponents - pro-fracking activists assert that a lengthy legal fight is inevitable.
"After the licence has been granted, there is going to be legal battle after legal battle after legal battle," states chairperson of the Karoo Shale Gas Community Forum, Vuyisile Booysen.
To read article titled, “Water, wealth and whites - SA's potent anti-fracking mix,” click here.Source:SABC News
Environmental group, Earthlife Africa , says Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan’s medium-term budget policy statement is clear that government must curb spending where possible.
The organisation argues that fiscal responsibility should be applied to the planned dirty and dangerous energy investments in coal and nuclear.
"We are dismayed that Minister Gordhan is continuing to support our over-reliance on coal by indicating future spending for a new coal-fired power station, Coal-3. This contradicts National Treasury's own statements that South Africa needs to reduce its carbon emissions, the very reason that Treasury wants to place a tax on carbon," it explains.
To read the article titled, “Mid-term Budget fails to deal with carbon emissions: Earthlife Africa,” click here.Source:SABC News
- An environmental catastrophe struck Europe thousands of years ago, annihilating one of its most magnificent animals. For millennia, Europe had been the natural habitat for lions, who roamed from Britain to the Urals. Their memory remains in heraldry, folklore and legend. But the lions themselves, beautiful and strong, were obliterated by an invasion of something new and dreadfully destructive. Not a single wild lion remains in Europe. What was this terrible agent of extermination?
It was us. Homo sapiens, our species, evolved in East Africa about 200 000 years ago. In those early days, the big cats and other large predators were our mortal foes, and threatened our existence. They were stronger, faster and tougher than us. But somehow we survived. Then, about 100 000 years ago, a small group of us left Africa and radiated around the world. About 45 000 years ago, we entered what is now called Europe.
We were still desperately poor hunter- gatherers, requiring vast areas to sustain our small numbers. But we now had spears, clubs, axes and fire, and much better strategies and coordination. We were now a match for the lions. We saw them as a threat and a competitor, menacing us, killing the animals we wanted to eat, occupying the habitat we wanted to live in. We regarded them as dangerous vermin. So we annihilated them. Today Europeans spend fortunes visiting Africa on safari and taking photographs of lions, which they now adore and value. In the past we humans regarded lions as a liability; now we regard them as an asset.
Africa is the least developed continent on Earth but has the world’s greatest proliferation of large wild animals. This is a paradox, since it is poor people, not the rich, who are the greatest danger to wild animals. It has been suggested that since African wild animals were exposed to humans for much longer than elsewhere, they learnt how to avoid them. While there may be some truth in this, more importantly, Africa is very large and straddles the equator. It therefore has an enormous number of life forms (the closer to the equator, the greater the biodiversity). People simply have not had time to kill this multitude of animals. But we are doing so right now.
The African environment is under threat everywhere. We are driving wild animals out of their habitats or killing them for their meat or body parts. We are hacking down forests for firewood or to make way for inefficient subsistence agriculture. Bodies of water, such as Lake Chad, have shrunk because of bad damming and irrigation. Overgrazing of livestock, for example in the Sahel, and slash-and-burn subsistence farming is causing calamitous soil erosion. Sprawling settlements of desperately poor people are poisoning the air and fouling waterways. In almost every African city or town, the impoverished are living in squalor and prompting environmental degradation.
Can the African environment be saved? Yes, in a very simple, certain and guaranteed way: development. The continent’s ecosystems can be rescued only if African countries develop modern economies, with modern industry, farming, technologies and systems of government, and if African people become richer. There are four fundamental reasons for this. First, richer people have fewer children than poor. Second, unlike older technologies, modern ones are cleaner, more efficient and use fewer resources, including land. Third, people move from the countryside to the cities as countries develop. And fourth, rich people care more about the environment than the poor because they can afford to. All of these tendencies are thoroughly benevolent. Some are surprising. It is not obvious that rich people have fewer children.
But they do, in every country and society. Only one method for reducing population growth is even more potent than wealth: the education of girls. A 2011 report from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, among other similar studies, shows that the more years of schooling a girl has, the fewer children she is likely to produce. Of course education and development go hand in hand.
Urbanisation should be welcomed. It is mad to encourage people to stay in the countryside. When people are living close to each other in cities, towns and suburbs, it is much cheaper and more efficient to supply them with water, transport, electricity, sanitation, goods and services, and far better for the environment, than if they are living far apart in rural areas. Much of the countryside now occupied by people should be abandoned and given back to nature and her wild animals.
There is a widespread fallacy that economic growth is dependent upon physical resources, and that you cannot have infinite growth with finite resources. Modern technology uses resources more and more efficiently; and many such as iron, copper and platinum can be recycled forever. They are finite in mass but infinite in time.
In 1740, the most accurate timepiece in the world was John Harrison’s H2 clock, which the English clockmaker invented to improve navigation. It weighed 40 kilograms and cost more than a million rand (about US$95,000) in today’s money. Nowadays, a cheap watch weighing 20g (2 000 times less) and costing a few hundred rand is far more accurate and reliable. Even more spectacular reductions in raw materials and improvements in efficiency have been made in communications, electronics and computing. Most of Africa uses rudimentary technologies that are wasteful of resources; turning to modern technologies would save the resources and make Africans richer.
Africa has a priceless advantage over Europe in the past: it does not have to invent technologies; they are ready at hand. It just has to install them.
Bjørn Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre, a think-tank, has shown how pollution increased at the beginning of England’s industrial revolution with the introduction of primitive and dirty engines. It rose to a maximum and then fell as the machines became cleaner and more efficient. Finally there was less pollution than before the industrial revolution.
The state of the air in London is a good example. For heating households, London began to use the new technology of coal in the 13th century to replace the old technology of wood. Air pollution increased and in 1306 King Edward I tried unsuccessfully to ban coal burning. Primitive coal-burning steam engines in the 18th and 19th centuries made things worse. But then the engines became cleaner and more efficient, stoves improved, regulation became more effective and alternative cleaner heating became available. Today, London’s air is cleaner than it was in the 13th century.
Africa does not have to go through this 800-year process; it can leap immediately to the new clean technologies of electricity and liquefied petroleum gas for heating and cooking, and modern motors and engines for locomotion and power. In the ideal environmental world, which is completely practicable and indeed is already evolving, most humans would live in cities and suburbs, occupying a tiny fraction of the Earth’s surface; a small number of commercial farmers would occupy a much larger but still minor area and grow food for us all; and the rest of the land would be returned to nature. The wild animals would get their habitat back. Modern farming uses less and less land for the same crop yields. Although a modern ‘organic’ farm can grow as much per hectare as a commercial farm, it requires more labour and is less efficient at delivering food to the customer - which is Africa’s greatest problem in the realm of food supply. A 2011 UN report estimated that “grain losses in Africa after harvest amount to US$4 billion a year, enough to provide the minimum annual food requirement of 48 million people.” Africa should strive for this ideal and attainable world. It is important to realise why Africa is the least developed continent. Only two factors have led to the successful development of any country: geography and institutions - systems of government, administration and law. In the beginning of our civilisation, geography was all-important. Today, geography hardly matters, and institutions are now essential.
The most important revolution in human history was agriculture, which led to civilisation. Agriculture allowed food surpluses and freed a class of people from labour. They became priests, administrators, accountants, engineers and kings, and developed writing, science and technologies. Agriculture in its beginnings depended entirely on geography.
In ‘Guns, Germs and Steel’, Pulitzer prize-winner Jared Diamond explains why the geography of Europe and Asia 10 000 years ago favoured agriculture and Africa’s did not. Farming was slow in coming to this continent. Geography is the unmitigated explanation for the relative backwardness of Africa today.
Today, geography has been overcome. Any country, regardless of geography, can develop successfully. Success or failure depends only on governance. North and South Korea have the same geography and people. But South Korea is prosperous, inventive and successful and North Korea is impoverished, stagnant and hungry. The institutions explain why: those of the former permit free enterprise, democracy and rule of law, whereas the latter’s communist despotism prevents development.
The only way to save the African environment is to develop African economies, and the only way to do this is through honest, efficient, competent, limited government with the rule of law, an impartial judiciary and free enterprise and trade.
Infrastructure is all-important. Perhaps nothing drags Africa down as badly as its poor roads, railways and ports; its’ appalling electricity; its wretched systems of water supply and sanitation. Yet it has the means to remedy all of these. Africa has by far the world’s greatest unused potential for hydro-electricity and huge resources of coal and gas. Nuclear power, used on the continent only in South Africa, could be used elsewhere with the coming generation of small modular reactors (SMRs). Solar and wind power could provide off-grid electricity for households and remote clinics and schools. The technologies for good roads, railways and water reticulation are fully developed and only require implementation.
Infrastructure is the best investment a poor country can make. Money could be raised for it in most countries. Lack of money is not the cause of Africa’s bad infrastructure. Rather, it is dishonest and incompetent management and administration. Corruption fouls many government contracts for new infrastructure. The absence of expertise, interest and accountability leads to maintenance failure and existing infrastructure crumbles into disrepair.
Africans, like people elsewhere, want modern, clean technology that will save their environment. No African woman would choose to spend hours every day cutting branches for firewood if she could turn a switch on an electric stove or press the lighter of a gas cooker. And no African man would choose the dangers and small rewards of poaching if he could have a well-paid job in a factory.
Malaria, which kills about 596 000 Africans, mostly children, every year can readily be overcome with good public health systems, as has been shown all around the world. In the 17th century, malaria was still widespread in southern Europe and the marshlands of England. But it has since been virtually eradicated from Europe, thanks to water treatment, better sanitation, and the proper application of insecticides such as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT). South Africa, for example, had 60 000 cases of malaria in 2000. After a programme of spraying the inside walls of dwellings with DDT, they were reduced to under 7 000 in 2012. Again the problem and the solution is good government management.
There is a desperate race against time for the African environment. Africa must develop quickly before poor Africans do to African lions what poor Europeans did to European lions. It has many things in its favour: a treasure trove of natural resources, a youthful population (unlike Europe and Japan) and the lessons of other countries to learn from. It must look for guidance to the success of South Korea and the spectacular recent advances of China, while taking note of its problems.
In the last decade or so, many African countries have seen high economic growth of five percent or more. Democracy, confirmed by its highest test of removing a government by an election - for example in Sierra Leone in 2007, in Zambia in 2011, in Ghana in 2012, among others - is spreading to more African countries. Development and good governance will save the African environment, but this is easier to say than to realise. Still, there are reasons for hope.
- Andrew Kenny is a professional engineer with degrees in physics and mechanical engineering. He has 16 years of experience in the energy industry, including working for Eskom and as a researcher at the Energy Research Centre at the University of Cape Town. He now works as an independent engineer in the field of energy. This article first appeared on Good Governance Africa website.
Nuclear Regulator places Gauteng communities, particularly pregnant women and children at risk, decision to be announced this week.
South Africans, particularly those living close to Pelindaba, whether residents of, for example, Peaconwood and Blair Athol upmarket Golf Estates or impoverished communities within Malachi, Drummond, Attridgeville and Thabo Mbeki, must brace themselves for exposure to potentially life threatening airborne minute nuclear particles being released into the Gauteng atmosphere on a daily basis for at least 10 years. These particles are the most dangerous forms of radioactive releases as they are easily inhaled and may lodge within the body where they will continuously emit potentially cancer forming radionuclides.
The ill-conceived decision made by the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) (to be announced this week), to licence two nuclear waste smelters will also allow smelted ingots into the Gauteng scrap metal market of ‘recycled’ radioactive metal, including the materials used in the development of the atomic bomb.
Routine daily emissions will be released in heavier doses to those in closer proximity to Pelindaba but these billions of invisible minute radionuclides, with half lives of many thousands of years will also be carried by the wind into other regions. Worse still, workers in the metal industry and scrap dealers will be working with radioactive metal without knowing of the hazard, with consumers buying metal products also being blissfully unaware of the potential hazards. In a worst case nuclear accident at Pelindaba, the radiation could easily reach Tshwane within two hours and Soweto within five hours.
Suspicion abounds that the Nuclear Energy Corporation (NECSA), plan to not only smelt the 14 000 tonnes of ‘radwaste’ metal on site, but to open up Pelindaba to imports of radioactive waste from around the world, supposedly ‘for profit’. “The trafficking of radioactive waste, a large part of which goes to countries of the South, constitutes a business of gigantic proportions, amounting to more than seven billion dollars a year in Italy alone,” said Massimo Scalia, the chairman of an investigative commission set up by the Italian parliament. Nuclear waste has been found dumped in Somalia, Malawi, Zaire, Sudan, Eritrea, Algeria, and Mozambique.
The impacts of such radiation particularly on pregnant women and children are well documented, even at so called ‘safe’ or small doses. This year alone, at least two major recalls of products because of radioactive contamination have taken place, one each in the United States of America and the United Kingdom, confirming the hazard posed by nuclear scrap metal. It must be remembered that the lowest possible exposure is one radiation track through one cell, which could result in the cell being missed (good), the cell being killed (also in a way good) or the cell being damaged, which is the first step to such mutated cells proliferating in the body, in the form of leukaemia, cancer, and other radiation induced health impacts.
This announcement, in the week when it was confirmed that 30 tons of radioactive water has been released into the ocean at Fukushima on a daily basis since the disaster over two years ago, together with the deeply worrying fact that President Jacob Zuma has quietly assumed the chair of the main nuclear decision making body, the National Nuclear Energy Coordination Committee, together with the on-going adamant pro-nuclear responses from the Department of Energy on the proposed R1 trillion nuclear build, goes against all common sense. Academics, energy activists, and many industrial players, have made clear their opposition to nuclear power, yet this does not seem to change the trajectory.
One can only assume that the feeding trough of the largest procurement in South Africa’s history is far too tempting to reject for any sensible reason.
Earthlife Africa Cape Town’s Muna Lakhani says: “It seems that our government is hell bent on the unwarranted and unnecessary exposure our workers, scrap metal dealers and the general public to nuclear radiation. There are safe alternatives such as encapsulation that will ensure no one is harmed.
Nuclear waste is an anti-democratic issue, as decisions are made behind closed doors, and hands are being gleefully rubbed at the idea of making secret money at the expense of all. Why should the South African public pay with their health? And why should service delivery be compromised at the expense of a nuclear agenda that will fill the same arms deal pockets again? We will stop this!”
The proposed R1 trillion nuclear fleet procurement will fall under the Secrecy Bill, rendering the generally opaque nuclear industry even less open to accountability.
“The public must be alerted to the menace of radiation in our workplaces and our homes, and all the horrific impacts on our people, from women being faced with birthing and the lifetime care of a malformed child, men and women being unable to conceive, and the potentially hundreds of thousands leukaemia’s, cancer and other health impacts”, commented Christine Garbett of the community based organisation, Pelindaba Working Group, whose members have actively opposed the smelter for safety and security reasons for many years.
Impoverished local communities living close to Pelindaba sent a representative to the NNR hearings where they handed in their objections and were promised to be allowed to participate in the process, where they could be informed and make input, this has now fallen by the wayside when the NNR reneged on their public undertaking to their representative.
The lengthy smelter approval process, begun more than 10 years ago, is riddled with inaccuracies, selective information and even possible illegalities in various aspects. Lawyers will be looking at various options in the near future.
Within three months of the Fukushima accident, children over 32 miles (50kilometres) from ground zero were found to be suffering from the three most common radiation sickness signs. One should not be reassured when the government announces that ‘there is no immediate health risk’ or that there is a ‘safe dose.’
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For more about Earthlife Africa Cape Town, refer to www.earthlife.org.za
To view other NGO press releases, refer to www.ngopulse.org/group/home-page/pressreleasesDate published:22/08/2013Organisation:Earthlife Africa Cape Town
- The World Wide Fund for Nature in South Africa (WWF-SA) has submitted its proposals to the National Treasury for a carbon tax.
The organisation says this will in effect help the country create an economy with a smaller carbon footprint.
It further argues that the driving force behind this proposal is the need to steer the economy away from its dependency on fossil fuels.
To read the article titled, “WWF-SA submits proposals for a carbon tax,” click here.Source:SABC News
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), an environmental organisation, says that the production delays at the Medupi power plant in Lephalale, Limpopo, are an indicator that South Africa should focus energy efforts on renewables.
WWF’s Living Planet head unit, Saliem Fakir, points out that, "The difficulties arising at Medupi present a lesson for South Africa, adding that large bulk energy projects such as this one are, by their nature, complex and have historically demonstrated the tendency to extend beyond expected timelines and budget.”
Fakir argues that the WWF said that the coal fired power station was a relic even before its construction, adding that the country should invest in moving toward efficient energy production.
To read the article titled, “WWF slams government over Medupi,” click here.Source:News 24