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Miller (1992) defines pollution as any addition to air,
water, soil, or food that threatens the health, survival, capability, or activities of
humans or other living organisms. Pollution is caused when resources are extracted,
processed, and when products are manufactured and used. Pollution usually manifests itself
in the form of a solid, liquid or a gas emission. Pollutants enter the environment through
human activities that impact on the environment and health through chemical, physical or
bacteriological factors. Various strategies have been developed to mitigate the effects of
pollution. Unfortunately these strategies are expensive to implement and may take years to
have the desired effect. In the past most approaches to handling pollution could be summed
up by the phrase "dilution is the solution to pollution". However pollution
levels have increased so much in amount and toxicity that this approachis no longer
acceptable. The key is pollution prevention rather than clean up or control, although the
alternative approach of source reduction may be a start to the prevention process. The
"Polluter-pays principle", where the polluter should bear the costs of avoiding
pollution, or remedying its effects, is increasingly being applied successfully in South
According to Enviro Facts (1999a), pollution is an unwelcome
concentration of substances that are beyond the environment's capacity to handle. These
substances are detrimental to people and other living organisms.
In an undisturbed ecosystem, all substances are processed
through an intricate network of biogeochemical cycles, such as the nitrogen and carbon
cycles. During these cycles, substances are taken up by plants, move through the food
chain to larger and more complex organisms, and when the latter die, are decomposed
(broken down) into simpler forms to be used again when they are taken up by plants.
Biodegradable substances are those that can be broken down by the environment's biological
systems. Pollution occurs when the environment becomes overloaded beyond the capacity of
these normal processing systems (Enviro Facts, 1999a).
The intention of the Pollution chapter is to highlight the
degradation of the urban environment in Greater Johannesburg due to pollution, as well as
the state, impact and responses thereto. The main focus is on pollution monitoring. There
are a number of strategic visions stating the need for the prevention of pollution, but
with few implementation actions. The Pollution chapter gives an overview of the current
state of pollution in Johannesburg with a specific focus on air, water, noise and land
pollution. The chapter outlines the main problems related to industry, inadequate service
delivery and the current status of how these problems are dealt with. Sustainable resource
consumption and predictions are not addressed as these are not currently a priority focus
area in Greater Johannesburg.
The worst polluted areas are found in a band
from east to west through the Johannesburg Central Business District (CBD), where all
types of pollution are found. High water pollution levels are due to bad pH and copper
levels in industrial effluent from areas such as Industria West, Amalgam, Selby and
Droste, continuing eastwards to Benrose, Denver and Heriotdale. High bacterial
content is also found in the water due to blocked sewers, waste from informal
settlements and the northern areas of the Inner City, which is more densely
populated. Industries, bus
OVERVIEW ON CURRENT
STATUS OF POLLUTION WITHIN GREATER JOHANNESBURG
|A composite analysis of
pollution in Greater Johannesburg has been undertaken, which comprises of water,
pollution levels. Pollutants can be grouped according to the main ecosystem which they
affect. One pollutant often affects more than one ecosystem (Enviro Facts, 1999a).
concentration of slow moving vehicles in the city, cause high air pollution levels.
Dust pollution from mine dumps to the south of the city centre also
contributes to the high levels of air pollution.
Lastly, noise pollution levels are serious in and
around the CBD because of the densely developed built form, and from the high level of
activity, hustle and bustle of all forms of vehicular traffic, industries and activities
such as nightclubs.
High levels of pollution are also found to the south of the CBD from Southgate to
Elandspark in the east, mainly due to water, air and noise pollution. The water of the
Klip River is badly polluted due to runoff from the mining areas and from large industrial
areas like Aeroton, Booysens, City Deep and Electron.
|There are also high levels of land
pollution which are caused by the concentration of commercial activities in the CBD,
||as well as the illegal dumping of solid waste.
Littering by informal traders and businesses , unmaintained sewage pipes, informal
settlements, and the large amounts of
|refuse due to overcrowding in parts of the
CBD, also causes land pollution.
Pollution levels are high around Soweto. To the southeast,
bacterial and industrial
effluent levels in the water are high due to the Devland industrial area, as well as
the sewage works and informal settlements located in the area. Very high levels of air
pollution are caused by excessive amounts of coal-burning taking place in and around the
Greater Soweto area.
|Air pollution originates from industries, the
belt of mining land,vehicle emissions and from the burning of coal and other fossil fuels,
like petroleum in the area. The industrial area, mining activities and small distances
between roads results in major noise pollution.
|The presence of industrial activity, the
Goudkoppies Landfill site, the Orlando
Power station (now being de-commissioned), untarred roads, refuse burning
|and the poverty of the area, adds
to air pollution.
Littering, unmanaged waste and sewage, and irregular
services, all cause land pollution in informal settlements in Soweto, while landfill sites
are also areas of land pollution. Noise pollution mainly emanates from the Devland
industrial area, Orlando Power station and vehicles (mainly busses and taxis) entering and
leaving Soweto on a daily basis.
The worst pollution is
concentrated to the southeast of Soweto where the Goudkoppies Landfill site, Devland
industrial area, major roads, and the Freedom Park and Goldev settlements are located.
High pollution levels are around the N12 in the Nancefield vicinity, as well as in the
Mofolo, Diepkloof/Orlando, Dhlamini and Protea areas in Soweto.
- High pollution levels are found in the east of Lenasia,
where excessive coal burning in the
Thembelihle settlement is a major cause of air pollution. Inadequate refuse removal and
illegal dumping leads to land pollution in the area, while noise mainly comes from
vehicles travelling to and from Johannesburg and surroundings, as well as from light
industries in the vicinity.
- Air pollution in Ennerdale is largely influenced by
excessive coal burning in informal settlements to the southeast, vehicle emissions from
the N1 and major roads, and dust from gravel roads. Illegal dumping and irregular refuse
removal causes land pollution, while noise pollution comes mainly from major roads, taxi
and bus routes, and some light industries.
- Poortjie, southwest of Ennerdale, and the Orange Farm area,
are affected by moderate to excessive coal burning and dust from gravel roads and
open/ agricultural land, which causes air pollution. Orange Farm and Poortjie are plagued
by vehicle emissions, littering, illegal dumping and irregular refuse removal, with high
noise and land pollution levels along major and national
- To the south of Roodepoort pollution levels are high in the
Fleurhof area. High levels of water pollution are found due to mining activities, the Lea
Glen industrial area and a nickel/chrome refinery in the area. Sources of air pollution
include the industrial area, mining dust, and moderate to excessive coal burning and
vehicular activity. Land pollution mainly includes industrial and residential waste, while
noise comes mainly from industries and vehicles on main roads.
- West of Roodepoort, the Roodepoort West industrial area, CBD
activities and excessive coal burning in the Davidsonville settlement, causes air
pollution. Land pollution is mainly due to a lack of refuse removal and
sewage services, together with high levels of litter and refuse in the Davidsonville
settlement; mining dust; and CBD activities such as commerce and transportation. Vehicle noise
is high due to the proximity to roads and combines with noise from industries and mining
- North of the Johannesburg CBD, polluted areas are found
north and south of Randburg, and to the south of Sandton. This consists mainly of:
- air pollution (from vehicle emissions, industries and commercial activities
in the decentralised CBDs);
- water pollution (from urban/ residential runoff, blocked sewers and
- land pollution (from commercial activities in the CBDs) and
- noise pollution (from proximity to roads and large amount of vehicle
- These forms of pollution overlap in these areas to produce
major environmental problems.
- Pollution levels are high to the northeast of Sandton, and
in Alexandra. Industrial activities
in the Wynberg / Kew area, as well as moderate to excessive coal burning taking place in
Alexandra are the main causes of air pollution. Water quality levels are low due to industrial effluent
and inadequate sanitation services in the densely populated informal settlements. Settlements around Alexandra show high levels of litter,
as well as inadequate
and solid waste services, which all combine to cause land pollution. Noise pollution
emanates mainly from car, bus and taxi movement, although the Wynberg / Kew industrial
area also plays a role.
- Lastly, in the far northern areas of Greater Johannesburg,
pollution levels are high at the Diepsloot and Zevenfontein settlements. Smoke from
excessive coal burning causes air pollution, whilst the lack of adequate refuse removal,
sewer systems and service provision leads to land pollution. Noise levels are high along
the N14 national road and other major roads, and water pollution in the area originates
from the lack of environmental education and peoples ignorance.
- The causes of air, water, land and noise pollution is
consistent throughout the Greater Johannesburg Area. These trends should be addressed
through environmental education and planning responces.
Enviro Facts 1999a: Pollution.
Miller, G.T. 1992: Living in the Environment. Wadsworth: California.