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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 satisfied with proceedings of EFF National People’s Assembly
2014-12-17

The University of the Free State (UFS) is happy about another successful hosting of a political party; this time, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). In the recent past (December 2012), the UFS hosted the African National Congress (ANC) with the same energy, support and selfless commitment as with the EFF.

“The fact that the EFF paid the required amount for the use of the university’s venues in full before the congress commenced, bears testimony to this. For the past two months, the UFS’s working team worked closely with the EFF’s logistics team to thoroughly plan for a smooth and successful National People’s Assembly,” says Dr Choice Makhetha, Acting Rector of the UFS.

The hard work and commitment invested in the preparation process paid off. The 1st EFF National People’s Assembly, held 13-16 December 2014 on the Bloemfontein Campus, was a huge success.

“It is with great excitement that I can report that all premises of the UFS have been left the way they were found on arrival; no damage to any property and no littering.”

“Thank you to the UFS staff members who worked selflessly on a daily basis: the cleaning staff who started very early in the morning and went home very late at night; garden staff who made sure that the grounds were exceptionally clean every day and the flowers bright; student volunteers who worked shifts of over 24 hours on the first day, making sure that EFF delegates were checked into residences; staff members at the Visitors Centre who were ready to share information about the university and provide support to EFF delegates; staff members at the Odeion (which served as media centre) who ensured that the national and international media houses were comfortable and that the media conferences ran smoothly; safety and security personnel who provided protection for all the people on campus and also ensuring safety of the buildings; the health and safety officers supported by our partners from ER24 emergency services; and the South African Police Services (SAPS). To the electricians, the plumbers and other colleagues from Physical Resources who assisted with any task, even beyond the call of duty, we say thank you. For all the support and extra miles travelled – we appreciate your passion for the work you do; you are all very important to us at the UFS.”

“As the University of the Free State, we would like to express our gratitude to the leadership of the EFF, the delegates, guests and partners, as well as the media houses. The level of discipline among delegates was impressive. The UFS staff members appreciate the level of professionalism and respect shown by the EFF leadership and delegates. All the best for the future!,” says Dr Makhetha.

The UFS will continue to host political parties, interest groups, associations and more in their diversity, provided there is availability of venues, events are held outside the academic period and payment is received well ahead of hosting. As a public institution of higher learning, the university has a responsibility to promote democracy and help deepen the principles thereof. A university is a perfect platform for differing views and diverse political formations to find expression.

“To the UFS community, thank you for the trust you showed in the working team as it prepared to host the EFF’s 1st National People’s Assembly. To Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality and the Free State Province – we appreciate the support. As the University of the Free State, we know we can always count on you!”, says Dr Makhetha.  

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