Environmental issues in Southern Africa

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For more about region: Southern Africa

Many environmental issues affect Southern Africa due to urbanization and the acts needed in order to survive. Southern Africa is the southern region of the continent Africa. It consists of countries such as: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Lesotho is surrounded by South Africa (it is in the middle of South Africa). Through an attempt of keeping up with the developing world, and trying to meet the high demands of the growing population, Southern Africa has exhausted its many resources resulting in severe environmental damage. Southern Africa's log, and produce are the cores of their economy, and this region has become dependent on these resources. The continuous depleting and improper treatment of their natural resources have led Southern Africa to the state where they are only harming their environment.

Location of Southern Africa on a map
Composite satellite image of Southern Africa

Some environmental issues that affect Southern Africa are: water pollution, air pollution, land degradation, solid waste pollution, and deforestation. The environmental damage affects not only the population's health, but also the species that live in the area, while also contributing to the worldwide issue of climate change.

Water pollution (supply)

For more about: Water supply and sanitation in South Africa

Global physical and economic water scarcity as of 2006

One of Southern Africa's biggest issues is the lack of clean water. According to The United Nations Convention on Climate Change on South Africa in 2000, the water around Africa is unevenly distributed, meaning that 60% of the water is situated in only 20% of the land.[1] Less than 10% of Southern Africa's surface water is accessible [2] and due to the fact that a majority of their ground water lay under large rock formations, ground water becomes difficult to access as well.[1] Climate change and its attendant effects on temperature and precipitation may have an additional impact.

Many Africans are moving to rural areas, adding to the already high demands for clean water[3][not in citation given] and while demands are growing drastically, freshwater supplies remain limited. Adding to the high demands, Durban’s dam has decreased by 20% since 2010,[4] and up to 30% of the water has either been stolen or given away illegally through international trading.[3] “A review of water availability in 1996 estimated that the total average annual surface runoff was 150 million cubic metres, the maximum potential annual system yield was 33 290 million cubic metres, and total water annual requirements were 20 045 million cubic metres. Water requirements could increase by about 50% by 2030 (Department of Water and Forestry, 2000a).”[1]

Although South Africa has one of the best, cleanest water out of all the countries in Southern Africa, many don’t have access to basic sanitations.[5] A majority of Southern Africa's accessible water is unclean, making the water vulnerable for water transmitted diseases to exist. Water-borne diseases such as Hepatitis A and Hepatitis E increase, while some of the water become so unclean that diseases such as: Typhoid fever, Leptospirosis, Schistosomiasis, and Bilharzia are transmitted through water contact.[6]

Causes of water pollution


As the population of people moving to urbanized areas increase, the demands for food supply also grow. As a mean to keep up with these high demands, the use of fertilization and sewage contamination also incline. Nitrates and phosphates found in fertilizers and sewage wastes causes eutrophication, which is harmful to other species in the environment. Eutrophication increases algae blooms, which may cause illnesses such as: diarrhea, hayfever, skin rashes, vomiting, fevers, gastroenteritis, muscle and joint pains, and eye irritations.[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_issues_in_Southern_Africa 01/03/2018

Oil spills

South Africa is situated at the very tip of Southern Africa. This location causes South Africa to become very vulnerable to oil spills. High levels of oil is transported from the Middle East to Europe and America along the coast, making Southern African's water and ecosystem at risk to being severely damaged.It thus is prone to oil spill.[8]

Coal mining

Coal mining is one of Southern Africa's main energy source, but it holds a huge negative impact on the land's water, air and soil quality. Acid mine drainage is the result of the excess coal mining that occurs. Sulphuric Acid is released from coal mining, and although the generalizing process is slow, the time it takes for the acid to neutralize is equally as slow. When clean, excess water is released from the rock masses that are broken through mining, it's mixed with the sulphuric acid causing the water to become toxic. This toxic, contaminated water kills plants and animals, while also dissolving aluminum and heavy minerals found in clean water (increasing toxicity level). Although rocks which contain calcium carbonate are able to neutralize the acidic water, Southern Africa does not have the rocks which contain these minerals.[9]

For a link to see the graph for the total primary energy supply in Africa, 2010 and more, click Here

Air pollution

Highveld in Gauteng Province

In this developing region, low-grade fuels are used to meet high demands for food, and energy.[2] SO2 and CO2 are released in the air, and due to deforestation and the growing amount of air pollution, the air pollutants in the atmosphere are slowly building up.

During the winter, pollutants are trapped in the air due to the high pressure, and are unable to move or dissipate. In the summer, due to the low pressure, pollutants are dissipated through unstable circulation. Many women are also cooking indoors with fossil fuels, which is the main cause for the health problems in women and children.

75.2% of Southern Africa's energy come from Highveld Areas,[2] where 5 of its 10 Eskom Power Stations are the largest in the world.[10] Highveld areas are above sea level, making the oxygen level 20% less than the oxygen level in the coast. This results in an incomplete combustion of fossil fuels,[10] and a severe nocturnal temperature inversion to occur; which results in smoke being trapped in the air [9] 860 tons of SO2 is produced from 3 of their main power stations (Matla, Duvha and Arnot),[10] “which exceeds the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) [exposure to particulate matter] standards of 180 mg.m-3 by 6 to 7 times during winter months (Annegarn et al. 1996 a,b)”.[2] This high concentration of air pollution surround the area making it very dangerous to one's health.

To see graphs indicating South Africa's share of CO2 emissions, click Here

Solid waste pollution

With the increase of population, and an increase in people who are moving to urbanized areas, the number of solid waste produced is increasing. South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism estimates that over half of the population of South Africa lack "adequate" solid waste treatment,[2] instead, waste is often dumped, buried or burned.[11]


As the population inclines, Southern Africa's demand for land also increases, contributing directly and indirectly to deforestation. Deforestation re-rates in Southern Africa was greater than other areas of Africa in the 1990s and are predicted to stay high.[12][13] due to degradation South Africa also tend to loss a big area that people settlement at, for an example in one of the province of South Africa which is Gauteng, as one of the most high populated province it experience a lot natural disasters due to uncontrollable forces. Here in this province people always seek for place of settlement and the area is occupied to an extend that there is not enough space for plantation.

Soil degradation

With the decrease in water and the high demands for agriculture, Southern African's land is becoming less fertile. Climate change is also causing an increase in water evaporation from the soil, making it very difficult for produce in Southern Africa. Africa itself is located in an area where climate is unpredictable, making them vulnerable to climate change and while Southern Africa is semi-arid, it puts them at risk for desertification.

Desertification causes an increase in soil erosion, making it difficult for plants to grow. This will lead to unsustainable food, and endanger Southern Africa's wildlife.[14] Through time, soil erosion will result in harvesting alien plants. Alien plants threaten indigenous plants and reduce grazing areas, which contributes to soil erosion.[15]

Southern Africa's land is already over cropped and over-grazed as a result of Africa's undistributed lands. With the combination of alien plants and the exhaustion of their lands, Southern Africa's degraded land is beyond repair.[16] Many countries use the method of irrigation as a way to prevent desertification and droughts. Unfortunately, only 4% of Sub-Saharan Africa is equipped for irrigation.[17] With the decrease in rainfall, and the lack of irrigation, Southern Africa's land and soil will soon become arid.

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Environmental Problems in South Africa". WWF Global. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Initial National Communication under the United Nations Framework; Convention on Climate Change" (PDF). United Nations. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  3. ^ a b "Water in Crisis South Africa". The Water Project. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  4. ^ Savides, Matthew (March 6, 2011). "Water shortages loom for Durban". iOL. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  5. ^ "The quiet water crisis". Humanitarian News and Analysis. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  6. ^ "South Africa major infectious diseases". index Mundi. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  7. ^ "Water Pollution". The Water Wise Education Team, Scientific Services Division. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  8. ^ "South Africa: Environmental Issues". United States; Energy Information Administration. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  9. ^ a b "Coal Mining on the Highveld and its Implications for Future Quality in the Vaal River System" (PDF). T S MCCARTHY and K PRETORIUS. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  10. ^ a b c "Background and Introduction to Air Pollution". Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Council. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  11. ^ Commission, U.S. International Trade. Solid and Hazardous Waste Services: An Examination of U.S. and Foreign Markets, Inv. 332-455. DIANE Publishing. pp. 7–. ISBN 9781457820410. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  12. ^ Bank, African Development (2003). Forestry Outlook Study for Africa: Regional Report, Opportunities and Challenges Towards 2020. Food & Agriculture Org. pp. 38–. ISBN 9789251049105. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  13. ^ Katrina, Brown,; Pearce, David William (1994). The causes of tropical deforestation: the economic and statistical analysis of factors giving rise to the loss of the tropical forests. UBC Press. pp. 50–. ISBN 9780774805117. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  14. ^ Reddy, Sashlin. "Desertification in South Africa". Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  15. ^ Rosenberg, Dr. Eureta. "Land Degradation". Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  16. ^ "Land Degradation". Environmental Monitoring Group. Archived from the original on 8 May 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  17. ^ Postel, Sandra L. (2011). "Chapter 4: Getting More Crop per Drop". 2011 State of the World: Innovations that Nourish the Planet. Worldwatch Institute. pp. 100–110. ISBN 978-0-393-33880-5.
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