Broken Land by Daylin Paul
The winner of the 2017 Ernest Cole Award is Daylin Paul for his project, Broken Land. The project explores the other side of power. Set in Mpumalanga, home of 46% of South Africa’s arable soil, it is also the area where nine power-burning coal stations are active.
Paul’s work explores the direct impact of fuel-burning coal stations on the local economy, population, farming community and, more broadly, climate change. As Paul says, “These power stations, while providing electricity for an energy-desperate South Africa, also have a devastating and lasting impact on the environment and the health of local people. Mining licences granted conditionally by the South African government are meant to safeguard the ecology and allow local people to benefit from the mineral wealth of the land.
But it is clear that these conditions are not being followed and that the health and economic well-being of both the land and its people are being jeopardised. Vast tracts of fertile, arable land are being ripped up, the landscape scarred with the black pits of coal mines while coal-burning power stations are one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters in the world.”
The polluting power stations not only contribute to global climate change but, through toxic sulphur effluents, also to the poisoning of scarce water supplies for a range of communities who are dependent on these for their survival. The area has in recent years also been hit by devastating droughts.
The power dynamics in the area have in recent times been drawn into the national political arena. The former Glencore coal mines, taken over by Optimum Coal Holdings Limited, a conglomerate owned by the Gupta family, are embroiled in corruption and nepotism scandals that are affecting the very highest levels of the South African government.
The aim of Paul’s project as he says is “to look at both the macro issues like pollution, poverty and climate change while also personalising the experience of the local people who are on the front lines of this crisis and provide us with a glimpse of what the future could be like for the country and indeed the SADC region.”
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