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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

UFS to get transformation plan for African context
2005-02-04

The University of the Free State is to draft a comprehensive Transformation Plan to give impetus to the process of making the UFS an inclusive, non-racial, non-sexist, multi-cultural and multi-lingual university within the African context.

Delivering a keynote speech at the Official Opening of the UFS today, the Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Frederick Fourie, said the Transformation Plan would include aspects such as employment equity, institutional culture, academic excellence, and other elements.

He added that another aspect to be considered in the academic element of the Transformation Plan was the issue of the African context, of a university for Africa, in Africa, of the African university.

According to Prof Fourie, the best way of understanding the role of the UFS in Africa and for Africa, is for the university to become a truly engaged university that bridges the gap between the institution and the community. He said the UFS had for more than 10 years been at the forefront of transformation in higher education, and had gone through several phases of transformation. However the UFS needed to embark on a new phase of transformation which would be guided by a comprehensive Transformation Plan.

The Transformation Plan would be the result of an inclusive consultation process involving staff, students, alumni and other stakeholders. It would also be based on a review of current policies and practices.
The process would be led by a Transformation Plan Team, co-ordinated by the Vice-Rector: Academic Operations, Prof Teuns Verschoor, and the Vice-Rector: Student Affairs, Dr Ezekiel Moraka.

“Obviously we should also not underestimate the complexities of transformation and of building a new society, given our complex history and the legacies of poverty, underdevelopment, colonialism and apartheid.

“We must consider support for staff involved in these transformation steps, including appropriate staff development, capacity to support transformation processes, as well as flexible and supportive administrative practices,” Prof Fourie said.

He said the UFS management understood the urgency of transformation in the current democratic South Africa and the changing global environment and appealed to staff and students to participate fully in drafting the Transformation Plan for the UFS.

“Transformation at the UFS has been and will continue to be a process with many facets that seek to enhance excellence in all spheres of university life, and is much more than merely ensuring employment equity,” he said.

Prof Fourie said: “We have reached a historic moment in the life of the UFS where innovative thinking and bold steps yet again are necessary because failure is not an option.”

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

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