Special Issue: Air Quality on the South African Highveld



Statement of Aims

The South African Highveld is the most industrialised region in Africa, and is home to around one-third of South Africa’s population. Power generation, industrial, mining, transport, residential and other activities emit large amounts of pollutants into the air. Persistent anticyclonic conditions and the dry winter are unfavourable for the dispersion of pollution. Since the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act was promulgated in 2004, the region has been subjected to numerous air quality management initiatives, including the declaration of the Vaal Triangle Airshed and Highveld Priority Areas.

This special issue of the Clean Air Journal is envisioned to be a synthesis of atmospheric research conducted on the Highveld since 2004, and to provide an update of Tyson, Kruger and Louw (1988). It will include both new research and review articles. It is intended to be a resource for policy-makers, students, and scientists.

Structure of the special issue

Papers will be grouped according to the following themes:

1.  Sources and emissions (coordinating guest editor: Dr Gerrit Kornelius)

To properly manage air pollution in a specific area, an as complete as possible emission inventory of sources that affect the area is required. This section will therefore try to address what is available for the major industrial sources in terms of the NAEIS, whether this is complete and reliable as an information source, but also sources that are not formally and regularly reported such as domestic and waste burning sources in residential areas, agricultural and biogenic sources, traffic, veld fires, mining sources etc. If novel inventory methods are being developed in addition to the ‘’standard’’ methods, these should be included in this section.

2.  Dispersion climatology and ambient air quality (coordinating guest editor: Mr Sean O’Beirne)

Air quality is an expression of sources of air pollution in an area together with the atmospheric processes that serve to diffuse, disperse and chemically transform that pollution.  The dispersion climatology of the Highveld is distinctive, with frequent surface and upper air inversions and a highly stable atmosphere, most especially during winter but not uncommon in the summer too.  There are multiple air quality monitoring stations across the Mpumalanga Highveld, many of which have been operating for 10 years or more together with various campaign measurements too.  What does that data reveal about the spatial and temporal character of air quality across the region and the atmospheric processes that determine that air quality?  What of recirculation for example, and other processes and how do these processes exacerbate or alleviate the air quality over different temporal and spatial horizons.

In terms of human exposure, household air quality is also vitally important.  What can be said about the differences between indoor and outdoor air quality especially across the large low income dense settlements that are spread across the Highveld? How does outdoor air quality affect indoor air quality, and vice versa or are they different phenomena? What of the tools that help to explain and indeed predict air quality particularly dispersion modelling.  Are the dispersion models that are so pivotal to deciding on air quality management interventions up to the task, especially given the unusual dispersion climatology that prevails across the highveld. Do the models simulate well enough not just the physical atmospheric processes but the chemical processes too?

3.  Impacts of air pollution (coordinating guest editor: Dr Gerrit Kornelius)

The purpose of air quality management is to reduce the impact on human health and other aspects of the environment (including but not limited to surface and ground water quality, the soil, flora and fauna). This section will review what is known about these impacts and the methods that are being used and developed to quantify them. For human health, the impact in low-income human settlements warrants special attention.

4.  Air quality management (coordinating guest editor: Ms Elizabeth Masekoameng)

The South African government has developed an air quality management plan for the Highveld Priority Area (HPA). This plan outlines measures that should be implemented by government, industry, and NGOs to improve air quality in the Priority Area. It has been over 8 years since the plan was development and under implementation. However, ambient air quality data is still showing exceedance of NAAQA in some parts of the HPA. This is because different air quality management interventions have different efficiencies (i.e. ability to improve air quality under specific circumstances).  The question is “Which interventions (at source level or sector level) are likely to be more effective and should therefore be prioritised in order to realize meaningful air quality improvements in the HPA?”

Various analytical techniques can be used to determine the effectiveness of interventions, and such analyses often get incorporated into cost effectiveness (CE) and cost-benefit analysis (CBA) studies. Indeed various CE and CBA studies have been conducted in the country, highlighting which interventions are likely to provide the most effective air quality management options. The challenge is that these studies differ in terms of geographic coverage, number of emission sources considered, quality of input data, quality of air dispersion modeling etc. That notwithstanding, the question that can be asked about these studies is “Are there any common messages that can be derived from these studies in terms of which interventions could be more effective, and which interventions could be prioritised and why?”.  Furthermore, at operational level, “What policy recommendations and management recommendations (financial, institutional, systems, etc.) can be made in support of emission reduction and air quality improvements efforts?”


Prospective authors are requested to email their abstract to the guest editor coordinating the section under which the proposed paper first best prior to writing the full paper, to ensure that the intended paper is within the scope of the special issue. Contributions will also be invited from specific authors.

Authors must submit their papers via the Clean Air Journal’s online platform at https://www.cleanairjournal.org.za/about/submissions. It should be noted in a cover letter that the submission is for the special issue “Air Quality on the South African Highveld.” If the manuscript is not intended as an original research paper, the cover letter should also specify if it is, rather, a review paper or commentary.

The final date for submission of full papers is 31 July 2021.

Peer Review Process

All submitted papers must be original and will go through the Clean Air Journal’s rigorous blind peer-review process with at least two reviewers. The CAJ’s editorial policy will be strictly followed by special issue reviewers. The final decision on the acceptance of papers for publication remains with the Editors-in-Chief of the Clean Air Journal.

Accepted papers will be published immediately in an Online Early edition of the special issue. The special issue will be published online in November/December 2021. If sponsors can be found, there will also be a print version of the special issue.

Guest Editors

Ms Elizabeth Masekoameng: EMasekoameng@yahoo.com

Dr Gerrit Kornelius, University of Pretoria: gkornelius@gmail.com

Mr Sean O’Beirne, SE Solutions: sobeirne@tiscali.co.za


Tyson, P.D., Kruger, F.J. and Louw, C.W. (eds), 1988: Atmospheric Pollution and its Implications in the Eastern Transvaal Highveld, South African National Scientific Programmes Report No. 150, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Pretoria