Action at Eskom Megawatt Park in Africa

Activists from Greenpeace Africa drive three dumper trucks filled with coal to the front of the Eskom Megawatt Park to unload five tonnes of the rock outside their offices. Effectively blocking one of the entrances to the building with the coal. The activists also hold banners calling on Eskom to 'clean up it's act', to "Stop Coal", to end their usage of the outdated fossil fuel; to publicly demand that Eskom stops the construction of the Kusile coal-fired power station and and shift investments to large-scale renewable energy projects. © Shayne Robinson / Greenpeace

 

Our new ground-breaking report, The True Cost Of Coal reveals what South Africa's addiction to coal is really costing the country. But beneath all the alarming stats and figures, there is a very real human picture of how coal is affecting South African livelihoods.

If Kusile power plant is going to burn 17 million tons of coal in one year, what real-life impacts will that have on you, me, and the man on the street?

A disastrous one.

From coal-induced illnesses to contaminated drinking water supplies, the true cost of coal to the daily life of South African people is a harsh price to pay for our government's fossil fuel addiction.

Mine workers paying the highest price

The first people to pay for our reliance on coal are often those who work with it every day.

Coal workers' pneumoconiosis is a lung disease that results from breathing in dust from coal over a long period of time. It is the most prominent disease found in the coal mining industry and is ultimately fatal.

Because precautionary equipment protecting mine workers from dust inhalation impacts the bottom line of the mine, some try to minimise their investment in this, providing an incredibly short-sighted and dangerous 'solution' to their money problems, and putting workers at high risk of getting critically sick.

What's coming out of the tap?

Moving to the effects outside the mines: according to WITS University Professor of Geoscience, Terence McCarthy, coal-fired power generation means "we are currently poisoning our main drinking water supply [the Upper-Vaal River catchment] through various mining activities."

"If we continue on this trajectory we will render our fresh water completely undrinkable within the next few decades," he says. This will leave the whole country paying the price of coal dependence for a long time.

This contamination of water supplies also affects those trying to make a living from farming.

Winston Nhlapo is a casual farm labourer and has lived on the banks of the Olifants River in Mpumalanga for the past two decades. The river was once his family's primary water source, but now it has been polluted by coal mining, threatening their very well-being.

They still use it to irrigate their subsistence crops and, as a result, have noticed a definite decline in yield and value. "Nowadays we barely grow enough for our own use, and the quality is much poorer than before," complains Nhlapo.

"I am afraid to think that my three children may not have any fresh water to drink when they reach my age."

Koos Pretorius, a farmer from Belfast in Mpumalanga, sums up the cost we all pay for our coal addiction, "For as long as people continue to believe that renewable energy is too expensive - and we continue to disregard the true cost of the externalities of coal power - we continue to lie to ourselves and do ourselves an injustice as a country."

How can you make a difference?

South Africa has some of the best renewable energy resources in the world, but sadly, they have been largely overlooked.

Sign our petition to get the government to double their clean energy ambitions and use the sun and the wind more and let's kick our coal addiction!