Day: September 1, 2017

Civil Society and the Role in Environmental

Civil Society and the Role in Environmental

The role of civil society in protecting and managing the environment. A case study of the ‘South Durban Community Environmental Alliance’ (SDCEA). Introduction We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. ~Native American Proverb The environment we live in and make use of everyday has to be treated with the respect it deserves because if we continue to abuse it the way we have been, then future generations will not have much to look forward to.

People often think that their “local” environmental actions (for example: not recycling or our increased fuel consumption and carbon footprint) do not have any global repercussions, but looking at the climatic change we are currently experiencing and the effects of this change, ( for example: polar bears now have less hunting grounds as the polar ice cap coverage is continuously decreasing), we can see that whatever little we do to help our environment will eventually help our world. (Derocher,A. Webpage) (DEFRA webpage) The role of civil society, i. . : the local community has in protecting and managing the environment is a much debated topic. Some people feel that it is the duty of our government to manage the environment while others argue that every person should be responsible and try their level best to protect and help their environment. I personally am of the opinion that, since we are the most damaging species living on this planet, should each strive to implement ‘green alternatives’ in our daily lives and help teach others to do the same, every ‘little-bit’ helps.

This ‘pay-it-forward’ strategy will not only ensure a good country for our future children but will also help us to live lives of better quality. (ECA webpage) The government of any country only makes up a tiny percentage of the population. The rest of the population is called civilians or civil society. So then, why is it that the majority has such a weak voice? Is it not our duty to speak up for our own dwellings and alert the government when it is threatened? This can be done via local environmental NGO’s.

These NGO’s give civil society a voice and allows the people to defend and protect their environment and effectively manage it while educating the rest of the community about how to live in harmony with our environment. They strive to bring about environmental awareness and make the people conscious of the environment. Environmental NGO’s act as the liaison between the local community and the government, or between large polluting industries and the local community. ECA webpage) (Chitra, 2003) (DEFRA webpage) NGO’s are an effective route to take if any civilian wishes to complain about environmental misuse, etc because large industries and even the government will pay hardly any attention to a single person, but will definitely listen to a large group of similarly minded people all bannered under one group. Public participation is crucial in looking after our environment. Every single community member should be willing to learn about their environment and how to protect and manage it. Chitra, 2003) (ECA webpage) NGO’s are also useful in educating the younger community members about pollution and its effects and also how they can become eco-friendly and be socially responsible young people. Discussion For this assignment, an environmental NGO called ‘South Durban Community Environmental Alliance’ (SDCEA) was used as a case study to show how the civil society can manage and protect their environment.

The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) was chosen as the case study because they are a great source of empowerment for the South Durban community and a great role model organisation for other communities that are facing similar problems. Their motto is: “The right to Know, the duty to Inquire, the obligation to Act. ” They give the people a voice and the strength to ‘stand up’ against major industries in their area. ( SDCEA webpages, ref. No 5b ) The SDCEA aim at educating the community about the pollution problems they face and how to take action against it.

They often hold classes in the community in order to teach people how the surrounding industrial factories are polluting their air, water and land and how this pollution affects their health. They show the community that they have a right, as South African (tax-paying) citizens, to live in a clean and non-toxic environment. This organisation teaches the youth about the pollution problem and shows them how this sort of pollution affects their lives and the lives of future generations. They organise marches and protests in order to increase public awareness and also to bring national attention to this local problem. SDCEA webpages, ref. No5b) So what exactly is the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA)? The SDCEA is an organisation that deals with ‘environmental justice’ and is situated in South Durban (an area that spans from the Durban harbour and ends as far south as Umkomaas). This organisation is a channel which the local community can use to communicate with the government. The SDCEA was established in 1995 and is a very public group that is not shy to bring attention to industrial pollution and the associated health hazards.

The organisation focuses on the South Durban area but its impacts are felt throughout the country as they are very vocal and do not hesitate to bring the media’s attention to their area. ( SDCEA webpages, ref. No 5a ) The SDCEA was established because a few founding members (residing in the south Durban area) realised that the massive amounts of pollution that comes from large industrial factories (such as oil refineries like Engen and SAPREF, and paper processing plants like Mondi and Sappi) and even from less significant companies (as many as 300! ) were affecting their health and the health of those around them.

So they enlisted the help of other community members in forming this organisation. ( SDCEA webpages, ref. No 5a ) The SDCEA is a recognised environmental NGO and members are united by one goal: access to a non-toxic living environment. Once the organisation was established they quickly realised that in order to tackle the pollution problem they would need to learn more about where it was coming from, in what quantities and how hazardous it actually was. They use the media to show the country what was going on in their community and how similar problems may be occurring in other communities.

Thus they educated others and empowered them to speak up and defend the environment. l( SDCEA webpages, ref. No 5b ) The SDCEA believes that every member of the community (who are of course tax-payers), have the right to live in a non-toxic and harmless environment, to have this environment be effectively protected by legal measures (such as legislatures, etc) that will prevent pollution, while promoting and practicing conservation and encouraging sustainable living. They deal with the pollution in the South Durban area which is an industrial area that also has residential areas.

These industries are a danger to the environment and to the residents. Industrial accidents have occurred on more than a few occasions where oil was spilt into the environment, health and safety of workers and residents were not adequately planned and dumping of toxic wastes have occurred illegally. ( SDCEA webpages, ref. No 5b ) The South Durban area is home to major South African and international industries such as Engen (an oil refinery), Mondi Paper Company, AECI (a group of about fifteen companies that deal in chemicals) and Sapref (the largest crude oil refinery in South Africa).

Also, it is home to sugar refineries, asbestos manufacturers, plastic product manufacturers, and about 120 other polluting companies. ( SDCEA webpages, ref. No 5c ) These industries: 1. Pollute the air: Major polluting industries pollute the air by releasing gaseous chemicals( eg: sulphur, carbon oxides, carbon dioxide, etc) into the atmosphere. According to the Durban Corporation, City Engineer’s Department (n. d. , circa 1990), in 1974, sulphur dioxide emissions were estimated at 140 tonnes per day for the entire South Durban area.

The yearly average sulphur dioxide concentrations in the Wentworth and Merewent area rose from less than 20 g/m3 in the 1975-76 period to more than 60 g/m3 in 1989. It is because of the petroleum and chemical companies in the south Durban area that they now have the highest sulphur dioxide levels in South Africa. Also another problem is the rising levels of smog in the area which can lead to low visibility for vehicle drivers etc. ( SDCEA webpages, ref. No 5a ) 2.

Cause bright light pollution: Large industries need bright arc-lights for security but these lights leave the community in constant brightness even through the nights. ( SDCEA webpages, ref. No 5a ) 3. Pollute the water: The 2 main canals (Umlazi Canal and canalised Isipingo River) in the south Durban area have also been polluted. The chemical industries have dumped their wastes into them. Heavy metals such as chrome and mercury have been found in the canals and fish are often found dead due to mercury poisoning or oxygen starvation.

In 1996, Sapref had a leak where oil ran into the Reunion Canal and from there into the sea, also Engen had a leak where oil ran into Stanvac Canal. It is often reported that foul smelling waste flows from canals into the Umlazi river and Isipingo river. CSIR and Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) reported that these rivers have the highest e-coli concentrations on the Natal coast and pronounced them unfit for public use in 1991. ( SDCEA webpages, ref. No 5a ) 4. Cause public health impacts: In 1994, Dr.

Barry Kistnasamy did a study on children at a school in Merebank. He found that they experienced three times more respiratory illnesses than children in other communities. Also air pollution often caused high levels of sinusitis and chest and eye infections in community members. ( SDCEA webpages, ref. No 5a ) The SDCEA has been successful in its mission to protect and manage the environment. They wrote a position paper in 1998 called ‘The Future of the Past’ which stopped mass residential movements in the South Durban area, which was going to be completely industrialized.

They have vastly improved the environmental education and awareness of community members by hosting public seminars on the Oil Refineries in Denmark and South Durban. They also often use GIS (Geographic Information Systems) program to map out where pollution has been reported and this gives community members a visual idea of what they are dealing with. The SDCEA has produced numerous (much more than 100) Environmental Impact Assessments and environmental papers, which has prompted industries to ‘clean up their act’.

Some examples of their papers include: APPEAL IN TERMS OF SECTION 35(3) OF THE ENVIRONMENT CONSERVATION ACT 73 OF 1989, July 8, 2004; “Behind the Shine” – The Real Impacts of Shell’s Work around the World, June 2004; Petition against the Proposed Upgrade of Mondi Paper, June 2004; The Settlers Primary School Health Study, November 2002; etc. The SDCEA tries its best to involve the public by establishing a “bucket brigade’ where locals take air samples themselves and these samples are then subjected to testing. This gives the community a sense of accomplishment and independence.

They also try to involve the community by hosting several seminars, workshops, etc that are all free of charge to attend. ( SDCEA webpages, ref. No 5a, b, c ) Conclusion The environment is something that every person uses and therefore each person needs to make an effort to take care and manage their own use of the environment. A community member may want to be more active in protecting their community environment and they can do so by joining their local NGO. One such example is the SDCEA which focuses on the south Durban area and the environmental problems in that area. References 1. Polar Bears and Climate Change.

Derocher, A. Available from: http://www. actionbioscience. org/environment/derocher. html [19 Aug 2011] 2. Chitra, A. 2003. Role of Ngo’s In Protecting Environment and Health. Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Environment and Health, Chennai, India. University of Madras, York University. Pages 105 –112. Available at: http://www. yorku. ca/bunchmj/ICEH/proceedings/Chitra_A_ICEH_papers_105to112. pdf [19 Aug 2011] 3. Public sector management reforms in Africa: lessons learned. Economic commission for Africa (ECA), 2003. Available at: http://www. uneca. org [20 Aug 2011] 4.

An invitation to shape the Nature of England, 2010. Department for environmental food and rural affairs. Available at: www. defra. gov. uk/environment/natural/ [21 Aug 2011] 5. SDCEA webpages: a) South Durban Community Environmental Alliance. Available from: http://www. h-net. org/~esati/sdcea/ or [19 Aug 2011] b) South Durban Community Environmental Alliance. Available at: http://www. cpp. org. za/publications/critical_dialogue/vol2no1_2005/chapt5. pdf [21 Aug 2011] c) South Durban Community Environmental Alliance. Available at: http://www. sdcea. co. za/ [21 Aug 2011]