Motor vehicle emissions are the biggest contributor to air pollution in Cape Town, and the City has opined that the failing rail service is just exacerbating the problem. Long delays in train service and the failure of vital rail infrastructure has encouraged locals to make use of their personal vehicles to travel in and out of the city, causing an increase in vehicular emissions.
“A number of air quality monitoring stations have recorded increased levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx), which supports the contention that vehicle emissions are on the rise. While these NOx levels are below the ambient air quality standards, it remains a cause for concern and highlights the urgent need for an efficient, well-maintained and fully functional passenger rail network,” said JP Smith, Mayco Member for Safety and Security; and Social Services.
Smith added that Cape Town’s air quality complies with the annual average ambient air quality standards, but there are days where the daily ambient standards have been exceeded.
In the past financial year, 13 days were recorded where the daily ambient standards have been exceeded.
“The City has a range of monitoring and evaluation systems and processes to detect and act on air pollution. This includes an air quality monitoring network that is managed by the Scientific Services Air Quality Laboratories. The network consists of 40 analysers at 14 ambient air quality monitoring stations located across the city. Currently, a process is underway to replace aging analysers, with City Health providing R3,7 million towards the replacement cost over a three-year period,” Smith said. “The severe drought experienced over the last three years has also contributed to these PM10 episodes, leading to an increase in windblown dust and also exacerbating the incidence of veld fires.”
Just over two years ago, the City also installed a high-powered camera monitoring network on Tygerberg Hills. “The Air Quality Management Unit has access to live feeds from this network which allows for remote monitoring of dark smoke emissions,” he added.
The City’s Air Quality Management Unit has also implemented a ‘Diesel Vehicle Emissions Testing Program”, which ensures that heavy-duty diesel vehicles comply with the prescribed emission rates.
In the last financial year, 8 262 vehicles were tested, with less than one percent failing. This program helps vehicle fleet operators maintain their vehicles in both a sound and compliant operating condition.
“By and large, industries are generally compliant. However, administrative enforcement actions are embarked upon where industries fail to ensure full compliance with licence conditions. The aim of these actions is first and foremost to ensure environmental protection; and secondly, they bring non-complying industries back into compliance. With a maximum fine of five million rand for a first offence prescribed by legislation, and the fact that company Directors can be held personally accountable, we find that this is a big enough deterrent to ensure good levels of compliance,” Smith said.