Public perceptions of air quality status and suggestions for improvement: The case of Richards Bay and its surroundings, uMhlathuze Local Municipality, South Africa

Public perception and suggestions to improve air quality justice: the case of uMhlathuze Local Municipality, South Africa

Keywords: Air quality, public perception, justice, Richards Bay, South Africa


Whereas industrial growth is instrumental in unlocking poverty and advancing development, often, the effect of pollution on the environment, particularly air quality, is seldom accurately predicted. The effects, which include mortality, morbidity, and loss of productive time, are demonstrated later after the damage is done. The views of the pollution-exposed public in industrialised centres is important to ascertain if policy intervention is enhancing environmental protection for all and justice by extension. Through an online survey, 215 residents of the rapidly industrialising Richards Bay and surrounding areas in South Africa responded to the questions about their perceptions of air quality and recommendations to improve air quality management. Results indicate a concern over air quality with most residents perceiving the air quality as fair or poor. Industrial emission was cited as the leading cause of pollution followed by sugar cane and agrarian burning. Irritation of the ear, nose and throat, as well as sneezing and coughing, were the health effects experienced by residents for which air pollution can be partly attributed. The public recommends an improvement in air quality monitoring, consequence management, technology and public transport system. In addition, they recommended the introduction of air quality offsets, incentives schemes, more public involvement, coordinated planning and better collaboration as a recipe for success in air quality management.

Author Biographies

Tom W. Okello, University of the Free State, South Africa

Senior Lecturer and Postgraduate Coordinator, Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Sciences at the University of Free StateĀ 

Mark Zunckel, uMoya-Nilu Air Quality Management Consulting, Durban, South Africa

Mark is a Managing Director at uMoya-Nilu Consulting and is well versed with Air Quality legal requirements and management within South Africa.

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Research Article