Environmental Issues

Problems and Solutions

By Dr. Gedion Getahun

A human being needs clear and healthy environment to exist. This needs a well balanced ecological and economical policy. Environmental problems have no limitations. They are regional, national and global. However, after the human being has realised that natural resources on this Planet have been exploited the term sustainable development has emerged. For about fifty years, for the first time in the history, the environmental pioneer ideas and programmes were discussed .In the beginning of the 70th  the necessity to put economical developments on the same level with ecological sustainable programs was introduced.

Some of the ecological movements and the global environmental initiatives in our Planet are the following.


1950: The Pug wash Movement in Canada


1963. IIASA in Laxenberg (Austria) and ICSU & SCOPE in Paris (France)


1971: Club of Rome


1972: UN-Conference in Stockholm


1973: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)


1980: Global 2000 (The Global 2000 Report to the President)


1984-1987: “Our Common future” (Dr. Med. Gro- Harlm Brundtland)


1988: The investigation commission of the German Parliament (Enquete-kommission)

 for the precaution of the atmospheric pollution


1989: The Paris conference concerning deforestation and the world forest conservation programme


1992: UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNED), the Earth Summit in Rio (Brazil)


1997: The Kyoto-Protocol


1999: The Global Compact programme initiated by UN-General Secretary Kofi Annan.


2002: Global conference on sustainability Development in Johannesburg (South Africa)


2004: G-8 meeting in Gleneagles (UK)


2007: G-8 Conference at Heiligendamm (Germany)    


Despite the fact that several national, and international meetings, conferences, summits have been held, the equilibrium between ecology and economy has never been reached so far.


Global Environmental Problems

Global Environment concerns are:

      i)          Global Warming

ii)                    Deforestation and Greenhouse Gas Production

iii)                  Persistant Organic Pollutants,(POPs),

iv)                  Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes

v)                  Atmospheric Pollution from Civil and Military Air Craft, other gases (methane, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide etc.)

vi)                 Wreck of old Satellite and Rockets

vii)               Radioactive Waste Disposal

viii)              Chemical and Radiological Weapons.

Environmental impacts raised from the civil technology developments as well as from developments and applications of military technology, whether conventional, nuclear or radiological, they all belong to the global problems.

In the past 50 years or longer, chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons have been developed and applied in some part of the world. Chemical warfare like agent orange, agent blue, agent purple were used during the Vietnam War, others types of chemicals were applied in Kurdistan, Iraq, Tanganyika, (Africa) South America, Afghanistan etc. In all these areas, health, economical and ecological problems still exist. Let us examine the effects of Depleted Uranium (DPU) on human and his environment [1].

Depleted Uranium weapon system was manufactured and tested 1973. In the year 1991, it was applied in Gulf war. Therefore, most observers said that the Gulf war was one of the most toxic and environmentally devastating war in world history. Two main reasons can be mentioned. First, hundred tons of depleted uranium weapons applied in the Gulf war had shown global environmental effect. The probability that the dust storm from the war region spreads the radioactive contamination all over the world is certain. Radiation does not recognise national boarders and air space sovereignty. Further more, Uranium munitions on battlefields and other areas will provide new sources of radioactive contamination in future years. This type of ecological devastation causes also carcinogenic, leukaemia and other toxic environment in the regions like Middle East, Iraq and other neighbour countries.

Second, during the Gulf war oil tankers and oil wells were bombed. Firing these oil reservoir, had released millions of gallons of oil into the atmosphere above the desert, the oil which is organic product containing millions of Hydrocarbons and other chemical elements destroyed the ecosystem of the entire region. When it rains it will be carried by rain and storm and destroy the global environment. These types of contaminated areas have no border at all and they belong to the global environmental impacts.

To deal with global warming and its effect on human and his environment, the Kyoto protocol has to be examined closer. The Kyoto conference (protocol) held in February 2005 is understood as annexation of the United Nation Convention about the global emission.

The main purpose of this protocol was that the industrialised countries should reduce the harmful green house gas emissions at five percent (5%) below the level of 1990. The reduction process has to be completed by the year 2012 [2].

The global warming is due to climate change. According to earth and atmospheric scientists, since 1900 the temperature of our Planet has increased by 0.7 ºC (Degree Celsius).

With global warming are associated, natural events like floods, hurricanes, that had occurred in the last two or three years in the world. In this context, also rising of sea level and ocean temperature can be mentioned.     

To protect the environment and promote the exchange of information about Persistent Organic Pollutants (Pops) the UNEP [3] has organised the Stockholm Convention and has established an office known as Ozone Secretariat. The Secretariat deals with matters of the Vienna Convention for the protection of Ozone Layer and the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the Ozone Layer [4][5].

To control transboundary movement of hazardous wastes and to minimise the quantity the Basel Convention was established [6][7].      

                            Environmental Problems in Ethiopia 

. Soil Erosion

. Land Degradation

. Desertification

. Deforestation

. Emission & Industrial Pollution

. Wildlife Reduction  

In Ethiopia, there is a loss of a large amount of biomass cover, land degradation, soil erosion, and desertification. These have been observed since four decades. Drought and famine that had occurred in Ethiopia have their grass root in the political, economical, ecological mismanagements.

According to the UN, Ethiopia’s forests are depleted, at present less than three percent of the entire country is covered with trees. The deforestation in the country has several reasons. These are, the ever increasing demand for fire wood, cooking (energy purposes) building houses, bridges etc (building material) and the converting the forest area into agricultural fields to gain more appropriate farming area for crop cultivation[8].

The environmental problems in Ethiopia are similar to those developing countries and also to countries  with economies in transition. If ecological situations or environmental problems of any country have to be analysed, it is necessary to distinguish between problems, which arise from global pollution or emission through man made exploitation of the biodiversity or if it is a natural disaster. In African continent the demographic growth is very fast.

This development demands space for living and working. In Ethiopia as it is also in most developing countries, the majority of the population live in the rural areas where land cultivation and agriculture is the main subsistence. Therefore, agricultural production has to be raised. On the other hand, the developing countries require economical progress and technological developments, for which well balanced and high qualified reasonable development plan and excellent management are required.

In Ethiopia, the biodiversity is treated in very awful manner. The destruction of natural habitat as well as a threat to the flora and fauna and other biological resources diminish the economy of the country. This affects the country’s wealth and with it, the existence and the well being of the nation.

Emission and Industrial Pollution
a) Flower Farm and Export Business

In the beginning of 1980 local and foreign farm enterprise services started flower production for commercial purposes in Ethiopia. The customers of the flowers are countries of the European Union. According to the authorities, flower export of the country has brought great economical advantage in the last decades. From the flower exports to the European market, the country profits, billions of Eth.Br. or millions of dollars. However, to run the flower farms and make them fully operational, various types of chemicals and pesticides are applied to cultivate land coverage of the farm area [9].    

A huge amount of agrochemicals have been imported into the country for the flower export farming industries. These chemicals are hazardous, and are carcinogenic to human and pollute the environment. About the impacts of such chemicals to the environment, scientists and various NGOs as well as international organisations, at the front the WHO and UNEP experts have confirmed long ago. As it is the case in all developing countries, pesticides are introduced as insecticides in Ethiopia to protect crop and plant production against insects and tiny microorganisms, which have the affinity to destroy the agricultural products.

For soil development fertilizers like phosphor and nitrogen salts are applied. These guarantee the self sufficiency of food to the country by increasing the agricultural food production or by raising the production of the so called cash crops. Further more, except for plant protection, pesticides are also used to control the anophenline mosquito insect that transmit malaria disease. For these reasons, Persistent Organic Pollutants( POPs) like Aldrin, Chlordane, DDT, Dieldrin are used for a long period of time in the country, and their utility may continue until environmental friendly biological control agents have replaced them [10]. These types of insecticides well give balanced agro-ecosystem. Until recently, there were about 2000 tones of obsolete pesticides as well as empty pesticide barrels stored in poor conditions at different places in the country.   

b) Factories and small Industries

Wonji, Wonji Shoa, Metheara and Akakai are industrial towns of Ethiopia [11]. In Wonji and Metehara sugar production factories are residing. Whereas in Akaki Beseka small textile and metal industries are located. The river water is heavy polluted by the hazardous wastes generated from the industries. There exist noise pollution. Excess chemicals and metals like chromium, nickel, arsenic, zinc, cadmium cobalt, copper, manganese and other toxic organic substances are present in Akaki River [12][13][14][15]. The chemical called fluoride is present in the river water of Wonji. Further more, asbestos and industrial smoke fill the air of Wonji and Methara and the surrounding regions. In fact, industrial pollution primarily affects the health and the environment of workers and inhabitants of the towns respectively.

 Wildlife habitat

The Ethiopia Wildlife had been reported as being seriously decimated. The reasons are as follows:

i)                    Professional Hunting of some African safari group, mostly from overseas

ii)                   Extensive hunting by the local people residing near to the national park area or close to the wildlife area.

iii)                 In most rural areas the farmers require land to be cultivated. They deforest the area to plough land for agriculture. Without any hesitation, this brings the decimation of flora and fauna of the surrounding region. Especially if irrigated agricultural land has to be cultivated in the National Park Area. 

iv)                 The livestock of the farmers in the wildlife area un restless, and they chase away the wild animals from their living area. The livestock density results the degradation of natural resources and minimises the quantity of the wild animals.

            It reduces the quality of their life as well.

v)                  Resettlement programmes from one region to another could bring a threat to wildlife, provided the resettlement occurs close to the wildlife reservation area.


 Proposals to overcome the Current Environmental Problems in Ethiopia

Deforestation: Ethiopia is a land of coffee, a country of huge biodiversity. In the forests there are medicinal plants and indigenous species, which are highly required for all purposes. If the degradation of natural resources continues, the country will loose every thing.

Human interference against the natural resources mainly for subsistence and economic reasons has to be solved. The natural forests require protection. The re-afforestation programme in the country should contain primarily indigenous plants and trees.

The secondary forest programme may also include the eucalyptus trees, which are good enough for energy and building purposes. However, eucalyptus trees need huge amount of water to grow and could make the region dry and bring erosion due to ground water problem.

In the past, wild fire has destroyed many of the forest areas of the country. Living an excess of economical and ecological damages behind. According to the Ethiopian Environmental Protection Authority, in the year 2000 wild fire in southern Bale and Borona Zone has devastated 80,733 hector forest area. The experts guess a loss of 39 Million of US Dollars approximately [16].

In the future, it is absolutely necessary to construct and build all weather roads, which enables the access into the wildlife and forest areas to extinguish the fire. Also protection by helicopters to spread fire extinguishing chemical and other additional safety measures will be required.

To save the depletion of natural forests, significant energy resources in the country like hydropower potential has to be harnessed. The technology of indigenous energy resources like natural gas, biomass, has to be developed in a modern technology and has to be used extensively. The development and the implementation of energy saving stove and fuel system for cooking and heating purposes for household, energy, etc will help. For this purpose alcohols like ethanol und methanol could be used. From sugar cane residues the alcohol fuel ethanol and from the natural gas extraction process the fuel gas methanol can be prepared .

Primarily, the programme development has to combine both biomass and other hydrocarbon resources to use as energy for heating, cooking, possibly to generate electricity for refrigeration and other household necessity[17].        

Currently, the wood biomass, crop residue, dung, are the indigenous energy resources, also petroleum is applied in the country to some extent. The capacity of the immense hydropower potential of Ethiopia has to be used extensively in order to generate high energy electricity for the country. These are future energy programme to save deforestation, erosion, desertification, climate change, global environmental change and global warming effects.   

Soil Erosion     

Soil erosion in Ethiopia has become violent. It comes from desertification, drought, degradation of natural resources and climate change (global warming). It is dangerous and accelerates the cause of serious economic and social impacts. Therefore, projects have to be funded to terrace the terrain [18].


Protection of the forest areas is highly essential so that it will not be converted into small bush and savannah, which latter becomes semi-arid zone. National – Biotope reservoir has to be developed and implemented throughout the country.

Agrochemicals (pesticides and fertilizers)

To protect emission and pollution in the surrounding region of the flower farm areas the application of isolated green house system is required. Strict measures should be taken for use and disposal of the pesticides in the country. This has the highest priority, if human health and environment has to be protected from hazard chemicals. The chemicals have to be used appropriately. It is the responsibility of the industries to clean their environment, recycle used water and other solutions and solvents, search contaminated areas and assess environmental remediation, and industrial decommissioning, when necessary. To improve the chemical handling and use, the national policy and legislation of the country should be exercised to the maximum. If the environmental laws and regulations made by the policy makers are not applicable into practice, the law should be reformed and updated.

If the chemicals are not used appropriately and accordingly, they will have an impact on air, soil, and water. On a long run, they will affect the health of the people exposed to them. Therefore, pollution control of the air, plants, soil, seas and rivers, ground water, of the industrial towns and their surrounding regions and health inspection or medical check up of the workers and employees has to be made by the authorities sequentially. 

To fight against industrial pollution, ozone depletion, the dissemination of global chemicals

( POPs ), co-operation with scientists, environmentalists, and the UNEP experts is advisable. The Organisation of the African Union has to start to realise African Environmental Policy. Further more, the Ethiopian authorities should bear in mind, the statements of Stockholm Convention, the Montreal Protocol, as well as the Basel Convention continuously and put them into practice strictly.

In Ethiopia, deep under ground repository of waste disposal technology has to be developed and implemented. This will help for example, to dispose of obsolete pesticide and their container (barrels, canisters) to avoid contact with human, flora and fauna. This requires high tech and financial help, thus co-operation with those companies which have exported the chemical to the country and International Organisations like FAO, WHO, UNEP, OECD, Ozone Secretariat may support the project.


Pollution and contamination occurred during and after wars in the world

. Prevention of arms where ever possible inclusive in outer space

. Nuclear disarmament with view to the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons.

. The prohibition of development, synthesis, as well as implementation of

  biological, chemical radiological and nuclear weapons in our planet.

.  Full engagement to identify this harmful global chemical, ray in the environment

   and effort to decontaminate, to save the human being and his environment through out 


© Dr Gedion Getahun*

Research Scientist and Lecturer    

Environmental Radioanalytical Chemistry

Mainz, Germany


* Membership & Co-operation

1) International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC)

     Emerging Issues in Developing Countries

     (Chemistry International)


2) German Chemical Society (Gdch)

    Analytical Chemistry and Ionising Radiation Safety (Frankfurt, Germany)


3) Royal Society of Chemistry

     Radiochemical Methods Group





[1] Depleted Uranium: The Trojan Horse of Nuclear War

       By: Leuren Moret

       World Affairs: The Journal of International Issues 1 July 04World Affairs



[2] The Kyoto Protocol and Climate Change–background Information



[3] An Emerging Global Action on POPs

       UNEP Chemicals Newsletter



[4]  Persistent Organic Pollutants



[5] The Basel Convention



[6] Global Biodiversity Assessment

       From Vision to Action: UNEP since UNCED

       United Nations Environment Programme ISBN: 92-807-1657-2


[7] The Montreal Protocol




[8] The Environmental Strategy of Ethiopia at Present and Beyond 2000

      By Dr. Gedion Getahun

      Tefetro: The Quarterly Newsletter of the CSE Project, Vol.1 No.7 March 1999

                    A publication of the Environmental Protection Authority of Ethiopia.


[9] The Toxic Truths of the Flower Business

         By: Wudineh Zenebe: Fortune Staff Writer



[10] Status of Pops with Special Reference to Pesticides in Ethiopia

        By: T. Teguam

        Environmental Protection Authority, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia



[11] Pollution Concern in Wonji, Wonji/Shoa, and Methara since the 1950’s

            By: Almaz Mequanint

            http:// www.geocities.com/akababi/wonji.htm


[12] Akaki River; The Analysis of the Pollution  Level of the Akaki River and

      Finding Possible Ways, to Reduce the Environment Pollution

      By Dr. Hailemichael Alemu

      http://www.telecom.net.et/   estc/Publication/Proceedi.htm



[13] Akaki River Said Toxic

       By Girma Abera

       The Monitor 17.1.1999


[14] Pollution Status of Tinishu Akakai River

       African Journals online:

       Bull.Chem.Soc.Ethiop.2007, 21(1), 13-22


[15] Chemical, Physical, and Microbiological Characteristics

       Of various Sources of Water in and around Addis Ababa

        Yesehak Worku, Sinknesh Ejigu, Worku Erge, Leykun Jemaneh



[16] Tefetro

        Quarterly Newsletter of the CSE Project Vol.2.No.1 June 2000

        Conservation Strategy of Ethiopia, Ethiopia Addis Ababa


[17] Tefetro

        Quarterly Newsletter of the CSE Project March 2000

        Conservation Strategy of Ethiopia, Ethiopia Addis Ababa


[18] Tefetro

        Quarterly Newsletter of the CSE Project  Vol.1 No.5 September 1998

        Conservation Strategy of Ethiopia, Ethiopia Addis Ababa