South Africa: Yesterday Greenpeace revealed that the province of Mpumalanga is a global air pollution hotspot.

“What about Beijing or China in its entirety?” and “Has India been excluded?” were popular retorts from rattled South Africans.

The majority of people failed to realise that these offenders are massive perpetrators of air pollution over vast expanses of land – the concentration of air pollution in the coal fields of South Africa is denser but isolated.

The World Health Organisation states, “Ambient air pollution accounts for an estimated 4.2 million deaths per year due to stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and chronic respiratory diseases.

"Around 91% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality levels exceed WHO limits.

"While ambient air pollution affects developed and developing countries alike, low- and middle-income countries experience the highest burden, with the greatest toll in the WHO Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions.”

WHO surveys reveal the 10 worst air offenders as:

  1. Pakistan
  2. Qatar
  3. Afghanistan
  4. Bangladesh
  5. Egypt
  6. UAE
  7. Mongolia
  8. India
  9. Bahrain
  10. Nepal

In contrast the 10 countries with the least polluted urban areas are:

  1. Australia
  2. Brunei
  3. New Zealand
  4. Estonia
  5. Finland
  6. Canada
  7. Iceland
  8. Sweden
  9. Ireland
  10. Liberia

Do these rankings surprise you or are they what you expected?


  1. Trevor Pearton – South Africa 2018/10/30

    Dear Richard,

    I too was somewhat surprised at the way Mpumalanga was singled out.
    I zoomed out of the image which they sent us and was able to see the NO2 levels isopach map for the whole world. And while China for example has a much larger footprint, the intensity of the NO2 levels was lower than for Mpumalanga.
    While pondering on this apparent anomaly, I noticed that the survey was done over June-August, the southern hemisphere WINTER.
    Not only are NO2 emissions higher during winter because of the greater workload of the power plants, hence the relatively lower intensities in the northern hemisphere, but Mpumalanga has a circulating weather pattern in winter which retains the pollution discharged by the power stations.
    SA’s summer NO2 emissions levels would look totally different, and so would China’s winter pollution map.
    Well done on the content of Mining Review.