Water contamination is a major public health problem in Africa. This topic is of interest because water is a necessity for survival. Looking at this problem helps to illuminate a serious issue that needs quick attention. The people affected the most are children who do not understand the importance of purifying drinking water. This discussion is based on a UN report on CNN in 2010 on the need for purifying polluted water.
According to the report, contaminated water claims more lives than any form of violence. In the 21st century, the world faces a crisis of contaminated water, which is the result of industrialization and is a major problem in developing countries. Wastewater is a mixture of fertilizer runoff, sewage disposal, agricultural waste, and industrial wastes (UN Report, 2010).
The utilization of chemicals in farming is a serious matter for environmentalists globally. Africa’s drinking water sources include streams, lakes, rivers, and rainfall.
A report by UNEP in 2002 dubbed ‘The Africa Environment Outlook’ recognizes ground water pollution coming from nitrates, phosphates and additional chemical residues used in Africa as a cause for alarm. However, this is common in regions that rely on underground aquifers for drinking water (Nweke & Sanders, 2009).
Agriculture is a source of a variety of water pollutants owing to run-off and leaching. Poultry and livestock farming are forms of agriculture that are not excluded from this pollution. Excessive rainfall on the ground flows into rivers and groundwater supplies carrying dissolved pollutants in the process (Schwarzenbach et al., 2010).
The pollutants contain sediments from eroded soil as well as phosphorus and nitrogen compounds contained in chemical fertilizers. Animal waste is also part of the pollutants that harbor disease pathogens. These contaminants diminish the concentrations of oxygen in water. Subsequently, this impedes the development of plants and suffocates aquatic animals.
The intensity of pollutants is high during drought because it is a time of high water demand. Consequently, there is reduced flow rate in rivers thus the ability to dilute chemicals is lowered (Schwarzenbach et al., 2010). These effects are severe in the developing world due to the pressure of feeding a growing population.
Several points are identified as sources of water pollution in the Zambezi River Basin of South Africa (Nweke & Sanders, 2009). The points include agricultural activities on farms, sewage-treatment facilities, mining activities and chemical industries. These points affect the surface water and groundwater quality.
It is projected that the Zambezi River is contaminated with 93,000 tons of factory waste each year. A joint initiative report between the University of Nairobi and the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) indicates that discharge into the Nairobi River Basin in Kenya contains higher than the recommended waste contents (Nweke & Sanders, 2009).
This is according to the local effluent guidelines given. The samples used to generate this report are waste substances collected from factories that release their waste into the Nairobi River. It is stated that the concentrations of nickel, lead and copper are higher than those required by local guidelines (Nweke & Sanders, 2009).
From the observations, managing water pollution due to agricultural run-off is very challenging. Agricultural overspill takes place in large areas, and it is often difficult to recognize the source of the overspill. The overspill rate also changes with time depending on how the land is used.
Issues such as poor implementation of laws, rampant bribery and incompetence worsen the pollution problem. Legislators should combine environmental laws with farming laws.
In addition, farmers should be assisted to control harmful materials that bring about pollution. The UN, through the World Water Day initiative, is working to sensitize people on the importance of clean water thus lessons on proper waste management (UN Report, 2010).
Nweke, O. C. & Sanders, W. H. (2009). Modern environmental health hazards: A public health issue of increasing significance in Africa. Health Perspectives, 117(6), 863–870. Doi: 10.1289/ehp.0800126
Schwarzenbach, P. R., Egli, T., Hofstetter, B. T, Gunten, U., & Wehrli, B. (2010). Global water pollution and human health. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 35(2010), 109-136. DOI: 10.1146/annurev-environ-100809-125342
UN Report. (2010). Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/03/22/united.nations.water.report/