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Air pollution and smog

Brown haze over Cape Town caused by vehicle emissions, wood burn and refineries

Have you ever wondered what the brown haze over the Cape Town city bowl is? To crash the cliché…. No, it is not just a “harmless cloud or haze” and neither is it the table cloth expanding over the city……


Some years ago the City of Cape Town launched the Climate Smart Initiative “The climate is changing, what about you? Take Action, Cape Town”.  This proposal was based on the data of international studies setting the carbon emission per capita of Cape Town on par with those of Beijing and New York. Various suggestions such as “Cycle to work”, “conserve nature”, “save water and electricity”, “recycle” to reduce our carbon footprint were made, but unfortunately not taken up. The main reason suggested is traffic congestion, but also wood fires and the vast burning of harvested grain fields in the Malmesbury area attribute to the brown haze with the highly increased level of small particle pollution. When driving over the Piekenierskloof Pass towards Cape Town you can observe the massive region of heavy smog.

How is the City of Cape Town going to tackle this important health issue? In various cities in Europe cars are only allowed to enter the inner city if their exhaust fumes are checked every two years and adhere to low limits of NOx. Blue Motion Technology offers a start-stop system that halts and restarts the motor at brief stops, for example when waiting at traffic lights or in heavy traffic. A public transport systems for schools could easily be installed in areas of high traffic congestion, such as Newlands, Claremont and Rondebosch where every day thousands of commuters are dropping their children off at school and picking them up, often several times a day. Furthermore the extinction of our urban forests and trees over the last years did not help to improve the air quality of the city as mature trees convert a higher amount of CO2.

Smog is a health threat for all of us causing respiratory tract infections and obstructive lung diseases such as asthma but also lung cancer. Urgent actions are needed to be undertaken by the government. However, raising awareness and participating in greener and more environmentally friendly actions is also a necessary adjustment in citizen’s lifestyle.


Pollution caused by refineries close to Plattekloof Rd


Brown haze over Cape Town caused by burning of grain fields and wood fires



Unfiltered smoke from refineries: filter systems are available, especially for the oil industry who could afford this investment to protect the citizens from health hazards

Regular air pollution in Cape Town

Air pollution such as smog is a growing health problem and an increasing occurrence of it around the world.  This largely contributes to the heat island effect and changes the eco-system and natural temperature around the city area as well as contributes to world CO2 emission.