Western Cape adopts new air quality management plan

10th March 2022 By: Yvonne Silaule - Contributor

The Western Cape government recently adopted the Western Cape Air Quality Management Plan (2021 – 2025), which it says "progressively realises our vision for clean and healthy air for all in the Western Cape”.

Western Cape Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning Minister Anton Bredell says the adoption of the plan comes at a time when climate change is recognised as a global emergency that affects the environment and humans.

He notes that greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions and air pollution are integrally related, as both have similar origins and solutions and may influence each other through complex interactions in the atmosphere. 

“The Western Cape Air Quality Management Plan (2021 – 2025) not only places an emphasis on the management of air quality in the province, but also the link between air pollution and climate change and provides for actions to reduce GHGs and its associated carbon footprint, in line with national and international requirements on climate change.

“Air quality legislative reform has also in recent years seen a shift towards responding to climate change mitigation, with the declaration of GHGs as priority air pollutants, in terms of the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act,” he points out.

Importantly, he states, the work done to monitor air quality in the province and the data collected in the process played a crucial role in the province’s long-term plans for a greener and sustainable environment, while contributing to the implementation of the Western Cape Climate Change Strategy: Vision 2050 that is currently being developed. 

“That is why the department has invested R10-million since 2020 to modernise its Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Network, which had its first air quality monitoring station commissioned in March 2008,” Bredell says.

Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning air quality management director Dr Joy Leaner points out that the network includes 12 air quality monitoring stations across the province. The stations measure air pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, particulate matter and hydrogen sulphide.

Not all air pollutants are measured at every location, as stations monitor air quality based on the presence of specific emission sources in an area.

The department has also partnered with the South African Weather Service, through the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, to ensure the measured air pollutants at each location are reported in real-time to the South African Ambient Air Quality Information System (SAAQIS).

Currently, nine of the department’s air quality monitoring stations can report in real-time to SAAQIS, while the remaining three will report in real-time later this year, Leaner says.