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04 June 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Charl Devenish
Prof Cathryn Tonne
Air pollution not only costs lives, it costs money too. Pictured is Prof Cathryn Tonne presenting a guest lecture on air pollution at the Bloemfontein Campus.

Health effects associated with ambient air pollution (AAP) have been well documented. Subsequently, the relationship between pollution and financial outcomes have also become a focus for case studies globally. An Environmental Research journal article revealed that “low and middle-income countries are disproportionately affected by the global burden of adverse health effects caused by AAP”. 

A high price to pay

In 2012, high concentrations of air pollution caused 7.4% of all deaths, costing South Africa up to 6% of its Gross Domestic Product. According to the recent International Growth Centre study conducted by senior University of Cape Town researchers, this is a direct consequence of the country’s heavy dependence of fossil fuels, a source of health-damaging air pollution and greenhouse pollutants.

Stunted human and economic growth

These South African statistics are attested to by Prof Cathryn Tonne who recently presented a guest lecture on air pollution which was hosted by the University of the Free State (UFS) Business School.

“Air pollution can affect economic development through several pathways, and health is an important one. Air pollution is linked to shorter life expectancy, chronic disease, asthma exacerbation and many other health outcomes that result in absenteeism from work and school. These have large direct costs to the health system.” 

Prof Tonne says that air pollution exposure in children is linked to reduced cognitive development, with important impacts on human capital. As a result, children are not reaching their full potential in terms of neurodevelopment, which has an effect on their income prospects and the economy as a whole. 

Resolving a looming disaster

Technology may be employed to radically clean the air. Cities need to lead in the reduction of air pollution by promoting renewable energy, using active transport such as walking or cycling, and investing in infrastructure to make this safe and attractive. 

With researchers playing a major role in strengthening the case for aggressive air pollution control, the government needs to implement policies in order to control sources of air pollution. This global health and economic issue also requires individuals and communities to play their part to improve air quality.

News Archive

Housing strategy must accommodate special needs
2005-10-17

Dr Mark Napier of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) 

South Africa’s housing strategy must give attention to people with special needs, including people with disabilities as well as people living with HIV / AIDS and those in poverty.

This was the view expressed by Dr Mark Napier of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) during his recent presentation to the Housing Research Day organised by the Centre for Development Support (CDS) at the University of the Free State (UFS).

Dr Napier previously worked in the national Department of Housing and was involved in shaping the recently launched “Breaking New Ground” housing strategy of Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. 

He said the changing social and demographic trends in South African society, especially after 11 years of democracy, required more flexibility in housing delivery to address the housing needs of different groups of people.  “For example, there are people who wish to or may be required to be spatially mobile because of their work or other reasons. There are also those communities who are vulnerable to disasters,” he said.

According to Dr Napier, housing delivery faced a number of challenges which needed to be addressed, including:

  • the withdrawal of larger construction firms
  • perceptions of low profit margins in the private sector
  • the slow process of developing an emerging contractor sector
  • access to bridging and other finance
  • the ability to retain capacity and expertise mainly at municipal level
  • the acquisition of well located (especially inner city) land

Dr Napier said the new housing strategy – which is called “Breaking New Ground” – tries to go beyond the provision of basic shelter to the establishment of sustainable settlements. It is also tries to be more responsive to housing demand rather than being supply led.

 The new strategy also allows for greater devolution of power to municipalities in the provision of housing, through accreditation to manage subsidies, Dr Napier said. 

He said a survey of people who had benefited from government’s housing programme had shown mixed results, with beneficiaries reporting a sense of security, independence and pride.  Although the location of the houses was poor and there were increased costs, most beneficiaries said they were better off than before, according to the survey.  Beneficiaries also highlighted the problem that they had very little personal choice between houses, sites or settlements.

There was also the perceived failure of developers and municipalities to repair defective houses or adequately maintain settlements, the survey found.
Many beneficiaries also reported that they felt unsafe in their settlements as well as in their own houses.

Prof Lucius Botes, the director of the Centre for Development Support, said the research day highlighted the Centre’s ability to interact with real problems faced by communities, by government, the private sector and civil society.  “This is how we can ensure that the UFS is engaged through our research with our people’s problems and challenges and enables the UFS as a place of scholarship to assist in finding solutions,” Prof Botes said.

Media release
Issued by:Lacea Loader
Media Representative
Tel:   (051) 401-2584
Cell:  083 645 2454
E-mail:  loaderl.stg@mail.uovs.ac.za
17 October 2005   
 

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