Development of a methodology for the delineation of air quality management areas in South Africa.
Since 1992 the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT), now the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), acknowledged that pollution and waste management governance was inadequate in dealing with South Africa’s changing social and industrial context. This triggered an extensive legislative revision, with the new National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act (No. 39 of 2004) (AQA) being partially implemented on 11 September 2005 and full implementation expected by 1 April 2010. The goal of this research was to develop a methodology for the delineation of the boundaries of air quality management areas in South Africa. The preliminary objective of the research was to identify the specific criteria that should be considered when developing the methodology. A review of the methodologies used internationally was undertaken, looking specifically at regions and countries with similar effects-based air quality legislation. The review concluded that the international practice regarding boundary determination was data intensive, relying heavily on the results of ambient air quality monitoring and the results of dispersion modelling based on comprehensive emissions inventories. Another commonality between the methodologies was the use of administrative boundaries as the borders of air quality management areas. South Africa has limited ambient air quality monitoring and there is no national emissions inventory for criteria pollutants. In the absence of this information an alternative approach was required. The next objective of the research was to identify or develop a proxy methodology for assessing the impact of each of these criteria to be used in the boundary determination. The criteria assessed as part of this research included, population density, emission criteria (industrial, mining and domestic), topography and administrative boundaries. A further objective of the research was to combine all the criteria to produce a single indicator or value as to the air pollution impact potential of the area under consideration. This methodology was then applied in the South African context. The final objective of the research was to assess the results of the application of the methodology on the regulatory framework proposed by the AQA, at the national, provincial and local government levels. The methodology has proved successful in the identification of areas with high air pollution impact potential in South Africa. This has allowed for a review of the boundaries proclaimed for the Vaal Triangle Airshed Priority Area and the Highveld Priority Area. In both cases significant revisions of the boundaries are recommended, however due to the controversial nature of these recommendations, it is proposed that these revisions are deferred until the five- yearly review phase of the priority area management plan. The results also recommended the proclamation of two additional national priority areas. The first was the proposed Magaliesberg Priority Area, which covers the north-western areas of Gauteng and the eastern areas of the North-West. This area combines the high density residential, commercial and industrial areas of Gauteng with the high density mining and industrial areas of the North-West. However, it is recommended that further ambient air quality monitoring and research is required prior to the proclamation of this national priority area. The second new national priority area proposed is the Waterberg Priority Area. This proclamation is a proactive declaration based on the proposed industrial developments earmarked for this area. Due to extensive coal reserves in the area, the development of additional coal-fired power generation, a coal to liquid facility and other coal beneficiation projects are currently under consideration. The research has identified five potential provincial priority areas. The provincial priority areas are associated with the major metropolitan centres in the country and their adjacent district municipalities. All of the proposed provincial priority areas, with the exception of the one proposed in Gauteng, require further ambient air quality monitoring and research prior to their proclamation. It is recommended that the City of Johannesburg / City of Tshwane provincial priority area be considered for immediate declaration. The review of the district and local municipalities identified in Table 24 of the National Framework highlighted the conservative nature of the initial assessment. The review amended the classification of 33 of the local municipalities, with 32 being reclassified downwards and only one being reclassified upwards. This also highlighted the subjective nature of the initial assessment. It is recommended that the local municipalities identified as having “Poor” or “Potentially Poor” air quality rating, be prioritised as potential sites in the national ambient air quality monitoring network and receive assistance in the development of their air quality management plans. This ensures that the limited financial and human resources assigned to air quality management in South Africa are deployed in those areas with the greatest need.