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A Record Of Air Pollution In Pietermaritzburg Environmental Sciences Essay

There is enough scientific proof from various resources to support the actual fact that Pietermaritzburg is plagued by air pollution, which is worsened by the topography of the city. There is also much research demonstrating the link between polluting of the environment and asthma. Recent tests show, that not only does indeed polluting of the environment exacerbate asthma, it can actually cause asthma. However, there has to be further research and studies done to medically prove this aspect. Medical statistics are really tricky to find in South Africa, which makes proving the link between polluting of the environment leading to asthma difficult. However, there may be substantial evidence exhibiting how air pollution triggers asthma problems and makes them more severe.

Air Air pollution in Pietermaritzburg: History - Past to Present day:

Air pollution in Pietermaritzburg is not a new problem. There are over two-hundred newspapers articles in the 'Witness Newspaper Archives', seeing back from the 1980s to provide day, reporting on this issue. Old and current photographs of the town often show smog 'suspending' over Pietermaritzburg. Before, polluting of the environment was induced mainly by cooking food fires. However, today's air pollution gets the added toxicity of man-made pollution from factories and motor vehicles (Banfield, 1992). 'Twenty percent of Pietermaritzburg residents are affected by polluting of the environment compared to five percent somewhere else in South Africa' (Banfield, 1992). Pietermaritzburg's air is supervised by the Msunduzi Municipality, which includes saved that the city's air contains the following contaminants: particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen (oxides), ozone, carbon monoxide and a great many other dangerous gases (Anthony, Nov 2007 and June 2007).

Figure 1: Demonstrating the smog formation over Pietermaritzburg: (The See Magazine, 28 June 2008)

(Wilson, 2008)

Location of Pietermaritzburg:

Pietermaritzburg, due to bad town planning, has all of its main industry and landfill site in the city's 'bowl'. It has resulted in a worsening of polluting of the environment. The N3 highway works direct through the heart and soul of Pietermaritzburg, as the number of large vehicles and vehicles increase, so do the emissions from these vehicles. The timber plantations on the escarpment of the city's basin and sugars plantations on the hilltops, add to the air pollution in Pietermaritzburg as these plantations have to be burnt as daily habit farming practice. (Anthony, Nov 2007 and June 2007)

Pietermaritzburg's physical position - in a valley - causes a temperature inversion that occurs. A temperatures inversion is not a normal occurrence, it only occurs in a valley (such as Pietermaritzburg) and the effect is worsened in winter. The cold air sinks down the factors of the valley and remains on the bottom of the valley - frost may form here. The heated air (along with pollutants) then increases and can stop half way up the valley slope to create a 'thermal belt'. This belt traps pollutants and boosts their bad properties and negative health effects, as the contaminants are not able to escape - and they remain over metropolis and cause health dangerous smog to form.

The diagrams below show the effect of the Temp Inversion in Pietermaritzburg:

(Sherriffs, 1989)

Major Contributors of Air Pollution:

The major contributors of air pollution in Pietermaritzburg are: emissions from industry, motor vehicles, fires at the landfill site and the burning of timber plantations and sugarcane plantations (Anthony, Nov 2007 and June 2007). Major industry, such as FFS Refiners, is guilty of adding to the pollution issue of Pietermaritzburg's air.

Below are two graphs demonstrating two of the major contaminants specific to the triggering and seriousness of asthma:

Figure 2: Graph displaying the daily averages and appropriate level (in red) of Particulate Matter (air pollution) in Pietermaritzburg's air

(Anthony, Nov 2007 and June 2007)

Figure 3: Graph displaying the daily averages and satisfactory level (in red) of Carbon Monoxide (air pollution) in Pietermaritzburg's air

(Anthony, Nov 2007 and June 2007)

In both graphs contaminants exceed the satisfactory national pollution suggestions (highlighted in red) in the a few months of June and July (winter season) - this is owing to the temperature inversion which worsens the air pollution problem.

Health Problems:

Asthma is a persistent health condition, which in turn causes infection and narrowing of the lung's airways, which in turn causes difficulty in respiration for the patient - and the individual may create a dry, wheezy coughing. Pollutants cause the restriction of the airways, as the air pollution particles aggravate the airways of the lungs.

Dr R. Gilbert, an over-all practitioner in Pietermaritzburg with an interest in asthma, state governments that the number of asthma patients that he treats is much greater than one would be prepared to find in a town the size of Pietermaritzburg. Dr Gilbert pointed out that Dr W. Robates, an ENT specialist, and Dr A. F. Jooma, a paediatrician, backed his views that the air pollution in Pietermaritzburg is a very real problem, which, without doubt, has a significant influence on the control and severity of asthma.

He also claims that many of his patients who leave Pietermaritzburg for significant measures of the time and then return - often do not have problems with their asthma condition while from the city. However, on coming back, their allergy symptoms and asthma symptoms reoccur (Gilbert, 2010, Robates, 2010 and Jooma, 2010).

In a telephonic interview with Umbalica Balrashie, the local sales administrator for Glaxo Smith Kline, a respected pharmaceutical company which stimulates asthma products, information was provided noting that the three highest sales areas for asthma medication in Kwa-Zulu Natal are Richards Bay, Durban South and Pietermaritzburg. Both Richards Bay and Durban South are highly industrialised areas with significant air pollution emissions, in comparison with Pietermaritzburg - but owing to Pietermaritzburg's heat range inversion, the pollutants are intensified and therefore, the triggering and seriousness of asthma attacks in Pietermaritzburg are equal to these two industrialised areas (Balrashie, 2010).

Community Views and Issues:

Many residents in Pietermaritzburg have complained about the problem of polluting of the environment in the town. In the year 1993, Pietermaritzburg residents spent almost R1, 5 million on asthma medication, proclaiming that the 'city's pollution has significantly contributed to these costs' (Quinlain, 1993). There were many conditions reported of families moving to Pietermaritzburg, and producing asthma or suffering from worsening existing asthma conditions, simply due to the coverage and power of the city's air pollution, which is increased and worsened by the temperatures inversion.

Residents in Pietermaritzburg have complained constantly about the state of the city's air. However, the Msunduzi Municipality have done little about the pollution levels, as these degrees of emissions are under the accepted and legal levels during most of the year. What the municipality has didn't promote to Country wide Government is the actual fact that Pietermaritzburg can be found in a valley - which causes a heat range inversion, in the end worsening the levels of pollutants hanging above the town (in smog). This ends up with the pollutants being trapped over Pietermaritzburg.

Industry and the Local Government's Role:

Industry is responsible for the productivity of poisonous emissions, which have to be monitored.

Local Federal government need to have a more stringent and committed stance in relation to industry emission levels.

The government needs to create consciousness about air pollution and its own negative health effects. Car emissions are excellent contributors to health issues (such as asthma). Air pollution warning systems have been taught to the general public in britain (UK) by the government. South Africa needs to do the same (Hutton, 2010). The South African government has (March 2010) committed to a new 'air quality monitoring system' (O'Donnell, 2010), which displays the amount of pollutants in the air and the quality of air (whether good or bad). 'The major areas of concern that need air-quality analysis and monitoring include travel areas such as highway routes and main roads, cities, municipalities and local community publicity. ' (O'Donnell, 2010) - this suggests that Pietermaritzburg should be monitored closely along the primary highway through the location and where industry is situated.

However, because of this to be successful, the local authorities needs to maintain the monitoring system and it costs big money. This maintenance of the monitoring system must be placed into South Africa's yearly cover the municipalities. Country wide government must constantly assess the 'difficult pollution' places, such as Pietermaritzburg. This monitoring system should show improvement in the air. If not, the government can ascertain from the monitoring system which contaminants are most rife and where they are really being emitted from. National government, together with Municipality, could then focus on strategies to lower the poisonous emissions which finally cause health issues.


N3 Highway -

The N3 highway is a problem as durable pickup trucks create huge emissions. The railroads should be reintroduced to move pots from Durban Harbour to Johannesburg. This might dramatically decrease the range of big trucks on the road and as they often times travel in the first hours of the morning, polluting of the environment would be reduced as the temperatures inversion is most crucial in the first time of the morning hours.

Industry -

Local Government needs to use industry in Pietermaritzburg to improve the amount of emissions that factories produce. As talked about, within an interview with Mr J. Pather, the Head of Environmental Health Services at Msunduzi Municipality, industry have complied in most cases to reduce emissions. From information given by Mr C. J. Anthony, Pollution Control Coordinator at Msunduzi Municipality, many specific polluting of the environment issues have been dealt with. For example, Grey's hospital's olive oil furnace has been changed with paraffin (Anthony, Nov 2007 and June 2007). No more industry should be built in the city's bowl, this will contain the present air pollution.

Pietermaritzburg's New England Landfill Site -

The New Britain Landfill Site needs to be moved out of the city's bowl. The particulate fallout is unacceptable and due to temperature inversion, the air pollution emissions are worsened. The municipality has attempted to improve conditions but the simple truth is that the landfill site needs to be moved anywhere else.

Burning -

There are rigorous regulations regarding the getting rid of of forests and sugarcane. These need to be monitored and carried out to prevent open fire emissions in the wrong seasons.

Monitoring -

National Government must work carefully with MUNICIPALITY and provide money which will permit the municipality to update and maintain polluting of the environment monitoring equipment.


Economic -

Msunduzi Municipality is in an emergency. The control of air pollution is a minimal priority at present.

It will be a huge expense to repair railroads and to move the Landfill Site.

Pietermaritzburg lacks both cash and skills to drive the concept of 'clean air'.

Environmental -

Pietermaritzburg is ornamented by timber plantations and sugarcane farms. This cannot be changed.


It is clinically proven that air pollution triggers and increases the intensity of asthma problems. The hyperlink between air pollution and asthma is an accepted reality by specialists across the world. 'In recent years scientists have shown that air pollution from cars, factories and electricity plants is a major cause of asthma disorders. ' Further research is currently underway in the United Kingdom (UK) and america of America (USA) to show this theory.

Pietermaritzburg has high levels of particulate subject and ozone that happen to be two pollutants directly in charge of the triggering of asthma disorders. The temperatures inversion in Pietermaritzburg is a known geographical truth - which worsens the pollution significantly. Hence, it is scientifically correct to state that polluting of the environment in Pietermaritzburg is worsened by the temps inversion and this air pollution triggers and worsens asthma problems.

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