It is really disheartening that in one week KwaZulu-Natal has experienced two separate incidents which threatened human lives and the environment. On Tuesday (13/08), “an oil spill, believed to have been caused by the collapse of storage tanks at the Willowton Group’s Oil factory plant near the Msunduzi River led to over 1 600 cubic metres of fatty oils and caustic soda making their way into the water.” In addition to causing the death of fish, the spill also negatively affected residents who rely on the Umsunduzi River and Inanda Dam water who have been warned to stay away from it.
As if that was not bad enough, on Friday (16/08) afternoon a leak at “Safripol’s Mobeni factory plant emitted noxious fumes into the area and left them with alleged breathing problems, headaches, and rashes.” It is reported that this factory is situated just metres away from a school and homes. Its “chemical stench was reported as far away as Glenwood and Umbilo to the north, and to Amanzimtoti in the south. The smell was apparently as a result of dowtherm, a compound used in industrial heat transfer systems.”
It seriously concerns the IFP that, while the factory evacuated its employees, apparently no emergency warnings were issued to the neighbouring communities, as the stench seeped into their homes allegedly causing breathing difficulties, nausea, headaches, itching eyes, and rashes. It is also reported that children and the elderly were particularly badly affected.
The IFP supports the call of the South Durban South Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) for the establishment of a 24-hour health centre in that area that will take care of the unintended consequences of having industries so close to the residential areas.
We also applaud MEC Dube-Ncube’s statement that her government has assigned a team of experts to examine that area because as she says, “the South Durban Basin is heavily air-polluted with many people experiencing respiratory illnesses. It can’t be business as usual.” The MEC’s statement vindicates the recent IFP debate during the MEC’s Budget Vote, with regards to the South Durban Basin.
The IFP views the two incidents as very unfortunate. Hence, while we commend the two factories for the steps they have taken to minimize the damage, we call on them to vastly improve their emergency warning systems so that such incidents do not happen in future
In addition, the IFP calls on every industry, company or business to ensure that incidents which pose hazards to the human and environmental health are avoided by all means. This call also goes to all communities in KwaZulu-Natal to be more vigilant in protecting and preserving the environment because it is the legacy that humanity must leave for future generations.
Mbongeleni Joshua Mazibuko
KZN IFP Spokesperson on Conservation & Environmental Affairs
083 992 6135