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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

Stained glass artist’s hard work recognised
2016-07-13

Description: Bongani Njalo Tags: Bongani Njalo

Bongani Njalo, project co-ordinator for the
Program for Innovation in Artform Development,
was recognised as one of the 200 Young
South Africans by the Mail & Guardian category
for the year 2016.
Photo: Siobhan Canavan

“I’ve used each highlight of my career as a benchmark for greater accomplishments.”

These are the words of Bongani Njalo, who was selected as one of the Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans together with Adv Loyiso Makapela, Junior Lecturer at the University of the Free State (UFS) Law Faculty. Njalo was recognised in the Arts and Culture category for his outstanding contribution to the art scene.

Getting to know the artist

The fine art graduate has worked on different art projects in several cities, and is currently the project co-ordinator for the Program for Innovation in Artform Development (PIAD). PIAD is a programme developed by the UFS and the Vrystaat Arts Festival, which focuses on how technology, interdisciplinary and experimental arts can connect with and impact on communities.

Aspiring artist on the move

Soon, this young artist will be on the move again, as he has been accepted into the Internal Leadership Program in Visual Arts Management at Deusto Business School, taking place in Bilbao in Spain in November and in New York next March.

When asked about the nomination, Njalo simply said: “To be honest with you, I don’t feel any differently whatsoever. I now feel I have more work I’d like to do.”

A man of many talents

Not only was Njalo an intern at the Mandela Bay Development Agency where he compiled the book entitled Art & Artists of the Eastern Cape, but he also curated the Eastern Cape Artists Exhibition at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival in 2011.

In 2012, Njalo was invited to curate a group exhibition, Beehive, for the Cape Town International Month of Photography Festival, and in 2014 he won the David Koloane Mentorship Award.

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