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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

Powering the future
2014-07-10

 

Kovsie students with the organisers at the African Student Energy Summit.

Photo: Rirhandzu Marivate

Powering the future. This was the theme of the first-ever African Student Energy Summit. The event was recently hosted by the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in Cape Town. The summit was even more unique, since it was part of a global series of Energy Summits held simultaneously in the US, Mexico and Scotland.

Sixteen Kovsies, together with students from across South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe, DRC, Zambia and Cameroon united at this event. The main goal: to confront pressing energy challenges faced by our continent. During roundtable discussions, these students brainstormed issues such as the accessibility of energy, as well as driving efficiency and sustainability through the use of green energy.

Antoinette Nel, a Kovsie honours student in Spatial Planning, said, “Interacting with different speakers and students on green energy possibilities enhanced my understanding of how much can be done to change the current status quo on energy in Africa.”

During a student parliamentary session, the participants had to come up with recommendations on sustainable energy. These will be compiled in a document and sent to the African Union (AU).

“My biggest highlight was understanding the need for energy by most Africans, not for lighting or industrialised activities but rather for daily livelihood, for basic rights and services such as cooking, health and education,” said Justman Suh, also an honours student in Spatial Planning at Kovsies.

“We are creating spaces to challenge Afro-pessimism in Africa through these platforms,” Dr Elizabeth Rasekoala, Chairperson of Green Shift Africa, said during the summit. 



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