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22 March 2020, Johannesburg — This World Water Day, the nexus of coal, water security, and air pollution is at the centre of the discussion for Greenpeace Africa. South Africa’s National Air Quality Officer, Dr Thuli Khumalo, is due to announce her decision regarding Eskom’s application for postponement from compliance with the Minimum Emissions Standards (MES) at the end of March[1]. Her decision has implications not only for how South Africa will proceed with addressing its air pollution crisis, but for the country’s water security as well.

“Towns across the country have been without water for months, with little decisive action from the government to do what is necessary to fight water insecurity. South Africa’s addiction to water wasting coal continues to be a threat to our right to clean water. The urgency for a Just Transition to renewable energy could not be clearer than on a day like World Water Day, when we know that Day Zero is still a lived reality for many communities across the country.” said Bukelwa Nzimande, Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Africa. 

In one second, Eskom uses the same amount of water as a single person would use within one year. This is based on the access to a minimum of 25 litres per day. In seven seconds, the utility uses nearly the same amount of water as a household of 3-5 people would use in an entire year[2]. All of this is in service of maintaining South Africa’s dependency on coal, when cleaner and cheaper alternative exist 

“Water is central to our humanity, and coal is the monster that continues to threaten it. Coal has held South Africa in the grips of its claws for far too long, jeopardising South Africans constitutional right to clean water and unpolluted air. The National Air Quality Officer has to ensure that water security, air quality, and ultimately our humanity, is not compromised further. She must uphold the moral duty of her office and make the right choice around Eskom’s application,” ended Nzimande.

Greenpeace Africa calls on Dr Khumalo to reject Eskom’s application for postponement from compliance with the MES, and to set a decisive precedent against polluters in South Africa who continue to undermine South Africans rights to a clean and healthy environment.

Contact details

Chris Vlavianos, Greenpeace Africa Communications Officer, 0798837036, [email protected]

Notes to the editor 

[1] Greenpeace Africa has opposed this application, and its submissions against it can be found here.
[2] This is according to a report released by Greenpeace Africa on coal’s impact on water security. The report, Water Hungry Coal, can be found here.