Plantation & Pulp mill awareness campaign
- Plantation & Pulp mill awareness campaign Plantations and Pulp Mills Together, one of the world's most destructive and polluting industries Awareness workshops With support from the Grassroots Foundation - Germany, Timberwatch Coalition member NGOs have organised a series of workshops in Merebank, Nelspruit, Underberg, Umkomaas and Richards Bay, and most recently in East London (see the report HERE), to highlight the harmful impacts of the timber plantation, pulp and paper industry. Globally and in South Africa, the pulp and paper industry is one of the world’s most polluting and environmentally destructive. It is the world’s fourth largest consumer of energy and its further expansion will have a huge environmental impact and many negative social and economic outcomes. In KwaZulu-Natal, Mondi and Sappi have recently expanded their existing pulp mills in Merebank, Richards Bay and Umkomaas, and the new Pulp United mill at Richards Bay - a R2.5 Billion joint venture with NCT Forestry and Swedish pulp manufacturer Rottneros Group, has been approved for construction. This means that pulp production capacity in South Africa will increase by well over a million tons per annum, which will need additional tree plantations covering a land area of more than 150,000 hectares in order to meet the raw material demands of the industry. The existing Sappi mill at Ngodwana in Mpumalanga has also been given government approval to increase production capacity by 70%, with obvious implications in terms of increased raw material and water needs. It has also been reported that a pulp mill could be built in the Eastern Cape, with plans for more than 100 000 hectares of new timber plantations in the region. With South Africa facing a looming electricity crisis and already beginning to suffer the effects of climate change, the expansion of an industry that consumes huge amounts of energy and depletes already scarce water supplies will bring a disaster. In addition, further displacement of communities to make way for plantations can only add to the poverty and many other social problems that continually plague society. Yet expansion is actively encouraged by government in the name of BBBEE (Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment), so-called rural economic development, and claimed poverty alleviation.
Dioxins and furansOne of the most worrying aspects of pulp and paper production is the use of chlorine-based bleaches that release toxic emissions to air, water and soil, containing dioxins and furans which resist biological breakdown and accumulate in the environment. They are considered to be amongst the most dangerous substances known to man. In 2005, Sappi polluted the Mvoti River so severely that the lower reaches of the river were closed to fishing, swimming or bathing as a precaution. This restriction came into force after the discovery of high levels of dioxins in the water. Sappi also came under fire for poisoning life in the Thukela River. Local residents and fishermen said that foul chemical smells, poor fishing, dirty water, foam and paper fibre residues were polluting the water.
The pulp and paper industry has known about the dioxin problem since at least 1985, but continually tries to downplay its significance. However, in response to public pressure, and stronger pollution regulations, many mills have converted to producing Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF) paper, with a process that uses chlorine dioxide gas. Although this partially reduces effluent as chemicals can be recovered and recycled, it does not eliminate organo-chlorine creation. Emissions from the recovery boiler and the boiler ash still contain dioxins. Therefore, depending on the method of disposal, both land and air may continue to be contaminated. There are safer methods of bleaching which produce Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) paper. In Sweden, the dioxin problem has been reduced by 75% using bleaching processes that rely on oxygen, ozone and hydrogen peroxide, but this requires converting to chlorine-free technology, which the paper industry in South Africa is unlikely to do willingly.Contributing to climate change The blame for global warming is usually directed at fossil fuel energy industries; however if one considers the full 'cradle to the grave' cycle of production and consumption, the pulp and paper industry is clearly one of the biggest culprits. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are released during all stages of pulp and paper manufacture. It begins with the destruction of carbon storing forests and grasslands in order to establish industrial-scale timber plantations, followed by the combustion of fossil fuel for transportation and processing, and finally resulting in a huge volumes of waste paper products that eventually end up in dumps and release methane as they decompose. ‘Solutions’ which will only compound the problem The industry maintains it has solutions to its carbon emissions, such as by investing in Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) biomass projects, biofuels, and carbon offset “forests”, which allows Northern countries to continue their carbon emissions and to earn carbon credits by establishing plantations in developing and third world countries. These new plantations will then supposedly act as carbon sinks, absorbing and hopefully storing more carbon than they cause to be released . However, if one takes into account the entire paper production process, combined with the on-going expansion of the industry (insteadof attempting to confine it to one relatively short time period, when the plantations are in the growing phase) it is likely that industry emissions will increase, not decrease. Little account is taken of the many other detrimental impacts plantations have on the environment and on the local communities who traditionally occupy the land. In the process of establishing plantations, self-sufficient communities are often displaced and forced to move to slums; grasslands, wetlands and natural forests are destroyed, together with the bio-diversity they support; and water resources are severely depleted. In the overall cycle, the destructive capacity of these so-called ‘solutions’ will be more likely to compound the devastation to the environment that we can already expect as a result of climate change. It is a myth that using plantation biomass as a fuel is carbon neutral. The burning of any plant material produces Co2. Combined with toxic mill waste, and particularly when burning it together with a dirty fuel like coal, harmful emissions are released into the atmosphere - not only carbon dioxide but also other dangerous toxins. Again, by not including the complete pulp and paper making cycle, and instead presenting each phase separately, the pulp & paper industry attempts to portray itself as carbon neutral. Further reading: The booklet below provides a range of pertinent information and links and can be accessed HERE.
East London workshop 14-2-2009
Eastern Cape Workshop on Plantations and Pulp MillsOn Saturday 14th February 2009 a workshop was held in East London with assistance from the WESSA Border-Kei Region office who also provided the meeting venue. This project was supported with funding from the Grassroots Foundation in Germany. Participants came from across the Eastern Cape, representing local and national government entities, industry, NGOs, and local communities. Background The immediate threat of expansion by the timber industry in southern Africa is now focussed on two areas, the Eastern Cape province in South Africa, and the Niassa and Manica provinces of Mocambique. In the Eastern Cape, a national government economic initiative has identified the timber industry as a priority sector for development, and large amounts of money have been invested by a state body called the IDC (Industrial Development Corporation) which is funded by the central government and assorted international financial institutions. (see http://www.idc.co.za/Wood%20Paper%20and%20Other%20industries.asp) Two large projects have already been started, a Plywood production mill at Kokstad, owned by Hans Merensky Holdings, a partially state-owned entity, (see http://www.ecdc.co.za/media/article.asp?pageid=1193 ) and a chipboard factory at Ugie, owned by Steinhoff/PG BISON. (see http://www.ecdc.co.za/media/article.asp?pageid=1332 ) Although there are no immediate plans for pulp production, it has been mooted that a pulp mill could be built near the port city of East London, which could draw logs from plantation growing areas inland. In all cases the establishment of these industries is heavily dependent on large state subsidies and infrastructure investments, but the most problematic aspect is that community owned land is being targetted for the establishment of the new plantations needed to supply the raw material required. (see http://www.ecdc.co.za/media/article.asp?pageid=903) What is very clear is that the negative impacts of this industrial expansion will be felt most by the affected rural communities, whose livelihoods are dependent on access to adequate farmland, water and biodiversity resources, and who will effectively be displaced onto marginal areas or forced to migrate to city slums once plantations are established on their land. Timber plantations require high rainfall and good quality soils, and once established, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to convert land back to other uses. Motivation From a Timberwatch perspective, it was considered most feasible to continue with awareness raising work in the Eastern Cape rather than in Mocambique. With a considerable number of contacts already established in the area, and it being logistically easier from both travelling distance and language perspectives, it would also be far less expensive to arrange for a workshop at either East London or King Williams Town. Also, this is where the national government department responsible for authorising new timber plantations (DWAF - Department of Water Affairs and Forestry) is based. The East London workshop generated much interest in issues around the topics discussed (see notice below), and some participants expressed an interest in becoming members of Timberwatch and in holding follow-up meetings in the future with a view to establishing a local Timberwatch group. For an overview of the workshop from the WESSA regional newsletter, Border Buzz, go HERE.
|M A||Bangani||Eastern Cape Environmental Network|
|Zuko||Dakafirstname.lastname@example.org||Buffalo City Municipality|
|Treena||Davidsonemail@example.com||Amatole District Municipality|
|Andile||Dyantyifirstname.lastname@example.org||Sizozama Training and Development|
|E N||Dyantyiemail@example.com||Sizozama Training and Development|
|Yan||Goldingfirstname.lastname@example.org||Khula Damma Eco-community|
|Anne||Keatingemail@example.com||Earth Harmony Innovators|
|Basetsana||Khathali||Alfred Nzo District Municipality|
|Kenneth||Kilanifirstname.lastname@example.org||Dept of Economic dev. and Env. affairs|
|Zolani||Magaziemail@example.com||Hans Merensky Holdings|
|Chris||Majikazana||Eastern Cape Environmental Network|
|Abel||Mama||Eastern Cape Environmental Network|
|Vuyokazi||Mgcithifirstname.lastname@example.org||Indaloyethu Environmental Co-op|
|Owen Sbusiso||Ndidiemail@example.com||Indaloyethu Envtl Co-op Ltd|
|Colleen||Sam||Eastern Cape Environmental Network|
|Fiona||Sephtonfirstname.lastname@example.org||Ukhahlamba District Municipality|
|Nomsa||Sibaneemail@example.com||Eastern Cape Legislature|
|Patrick||Siko||Hans Merensky Holdings|
|Inga||Sikuza||ingrid firstname.lastname@example.org||Eastern Cape Hardwoods|
|S||Sikuza||ingrid email@example.com||Eastern Cape Hardwoods|
|M||Sikuza||ingrid firstname.lastname@example.org||Eastern Cape Hardwoods|
|Douwe||van der Zeeemail@example.com||Jackalskloof Permaculture Farm|
|Timothy||Wigleyfirstname.lastname@example.org||Earth Harmony Innovators|
|Khanyiso||Wonciemail@example.com||Amatole District Municipality|