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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 takes steps to address power shedding
2008-01-31

The problem of power shedding was urgently discussed by the Executive Committee of the Executive Management (Exco) during its meeting yesterday.

A report was presented by Ms Edma Pelzer, Director: Physical Resources and Special Projects, and a consulting electrical engineer about possible short, medium and long term solutions for the UFS.

This includes (a) the possible installation of equipment (eg. power generators) and (b) operating procedures to ensure the UFS’s functionality despite power shedding.

We are also in contact with Centlec to bring about the best possible arrangements for the UFS regarding the power shedding. It is possible that refined power shedding schedules will be implemented within a few weeks or a month to ensure that there is minimal disruptions at the UFS (especially during evening lectures).

In the long term it is unaffordable to generate power for the whole campus to meet everyone’s electricity needs. Only critical points will be supplied with emergency power generators.

Emergency power generation for certain critical points have already been provided for (eg. the Callie Human Centre, the evacuation of large halls, computer services, critical long term research projects, etc.). We have been doing surveys since 2006 to determine the UFS’s preparedness for “normal” power failures. The extent of the current situation has, however, taken the whole country by surprise.

Certain urgent steps were decided on yesterday. A decision was made to immediately design emergency power systems and supply it to the new examination centre and large lecture halls such as the Stabilis, Flippie Groenewoud, Agriculture building, and possibly the West Block. The delivery and installation of these systems will, however, take from three to six months.

The UFS will have to manage despite the power shedding, even after the emergency power systems have been installed and we will not be able to function as normal. Every division must devise operating procedures to deal with the power shedding without jeopardising the quality of core functions.

Bloemfontein is luckier than many other cities because Centlec is able (so far) to keep to the published schedule to a large extent.

Plans are also being made to keep staff and students continuously informed via the UFS web site about expected power shedding schedules and risks of power shedding in the course of a day.

Exco requests every faculty and support service to think about suitable operational solutions for managing their work and meetings during a power shedding.

Every line head has instructions to urgently determine the situation and needs in his or her division and indicate what practical arrangements can and must be made to schedule work around the power shedding. Every line head must provide Exco with a status report within a week.

In this way critical areas in terms of core functions and high quality service delivery will be determined and receive attention. Security systems and the safety of staff and students will also receive specific attention - this includes the residences.

In the mean time the Department of Physical Resources will carry on with a wide-ranging investigation into the extent of needs and plans and will compile a budget for the solution thereof.

Prof. Teuns Verschoor, Vice-Rector: Academic Operations, and the deans had a meeting yesterday to discuss problems and possible solutions around the power shedding in eg. computer rooms, during evening lectures, and practical classes.

Options may include eg. alternative time slots (eg. weekends) or alternative halls (eg. at the Vista Campus) for evening lectures which are affected by power shedding, or adjusted teaching methods.

Staff is requested not to install their own power generators under any circumstances. It can be very dangerous when such apparatus are linked to a building’s electrical system. The safety of staff and students and the risks of fire or injuries must also be the highest priority under all circumstances.

The Department of Physical Resources is also in the process of investigating options such as smaller power generators or ‘UPS’ apparatus as part of a broader evaluation of needs and potential solutions.

Exco wants to ensure all staff and students that this matter is receiving urgent attention and will keep on receiving it.

If there are any practical solutions about dealing with the power shedding (such as alternative ways of working) you are invited to send an e-mail to: lightsout@ufs.ac.za  

 

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