After decades of not knowing if they have been breathing in harmful pollution, residents of the black township of Zamdela are now taking the matter into their own hands -- with buckets.
Home to 80,000 people, Zamdela is encircled by South Africa's industrial heartland in the province of Free State, known as Sasolburg.
Under the laws of the apartheid government that prohibited certain industry operations from releasing information to the public, the residents of Zamdela, who are downwind of the petro-chemical plants and oil refineries, never knew if the smelly emissions were harmful.
With a new South African government in place since 1994, nearby industries are now making some of their operations and emissions public. But there is still no national environmental enforcement agency that monitors pollution.
So some of the residents of Zamdela have begun to take monitoring their air quality into their own hands.
With the help of environmental groups in the United States, residents here have formed a "bucket brigade" that takes air quality samples with easy-to-use inexpensive bucket-testing devices.
Mvuse Maguma, a school teacher who was born and raised in Zamdela, says he has been concerned that the emissions are harming people's health and takes air quality samples whenever he notices a strange chemical odor coming from nearby industrial plants.
"Most people in the community are having similar health problems, including bronchitis, tuberculosis, eye irritations, and asthma," says Maguma.
Albertina Motsei, who has also lived her whole life in Zamdela, says she is concerned about the black coal dust that is carried by the wind from nearby stockpiles...
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