SCEMO

Sahel Countries Environmental Management Organisation (SCEMO)

  1. Introduction

1.1 Sahel countries

Sahel meaning a semiarid region of western and north-central Africa extending from west to east Africa i.e., stretches across the entire continent of Africa from western cost to the red sea. It is located south of the Sahara Desert and north of and south of savanna land. Countries in east Africa such as Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan Djibouti, and Kenya are included in this category of a climate that forms a transitional zone between the arid Sahara to the north and the belt of humid savannah to the south (see Fig below).

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The semiarid steppes of the Sahel have natural pasture with low -growing grass and tall, herbaceous perennials. Other forage for the region’s livestock (camel, pack ox, and grazing cattle and sheep), including thorny shrubs and acacia and baobab trees. The terrain is chiefly of the savanna type, with little continuous cover and a dangerous tendency to merge into desert because of overstocking and overgrazing (see fig Below)

  1. Sahel REGION, AFRICA

Agriculture plays a central role for food security in the region that employs most of the regional’s work force. It contributes to its gross domestic products. However; the limited annual rainfall (i.e.; three to four months), low use of external inputs in its agricultural system (i.e.; the absence of mechanisation, seeds, and fertiliser) remains the agriculture of the region highly underdeveloped. The strong climate variations and irregular rainfall in the region pose obstacles for food security and reduction in poverty in the past four decades (see fig below).

Various factors have accounted for environmental crises. “ over the half century” UNEP notes, “ the combined effects of population growth, land degradation, (deforestation, continuous cropping and overgrazing), reduced and erratic rainfall, lack of coherent environmental policies, insecurity and political instability in the region, and misplaced development priorities have contributed to transition a large proportion of the Sahel barren land, resulting in the deterioration of the soil and water resources”. In recent times the growing human populations for town dwelling, for fire woods and farmers stripp trees and scrub cover to obtain fire woods and grow crops has afflicted increasing the region by soil erosion and deforestation that results into environmental crises in the region (see fig below). 

The recent development in political arena the followed by peace agreement among the three countries Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia would give a path for environmental management to emerge as a major role in combating the climate change that the world face at this critical moment. The peace in the region can play a major role in tackling environmental problems. Environmental crises cannot be solved by one country alone, however; it’s the combined effort of the people in the region can tackle the environmental problem before its consequence lasts for long in the region. We, the membership of this organisation concluded that after long years of waiting the initiative of political peace in the region, agreed a need to establish environmental management organisation to deal environmental problems that had been there and would rise because of the economic development that comes to region enthusiastically soon after peace development.  

2. Environmental Management

Environmental management has a broad definition in a sense that brings different professional to a global vision. It involves all people with different background, many stakeholders, many special scales; ranging from local to the global, governmental and non-governmental organisation. It involves the desire to control or monitor the direction pace development, to optimise the resource use to minimise environmental degradation and to avoid environmental disaster. 

In general, however; environmental management is concerned with the understanding of the structure and function of the earth system as well as the ways in which humans relate to their environment. It is concerned with the description and monitoring of environmental changes, with prediction the future changes and with attempts to maximise human benefits and to minimise environmental degradation due to human activities. Thus, characteristically it is a decision making that involves a decision-making process in relation to the use of natural resources. Fundamentally however, it is a political activity because of those decision a, pollution and ecosystems are never neutral; on the contrary it is the exercise of power by groups over the other. It is better to define environmental management overall as it is concerned with the management of human activities and their impacts. It engaged with the meeting and improving provision for human needs and demands on sustainable bases with minimum damage to natural habitat and ecosystem. 

2.1 Environmental Resource Management

Environmental resource management is the management of the interaction and impact of human societies on the environment. It aims to ensure that ecosystem services are protected and maintained for the future human generations, and maintain ecosystem integrity through considering ethical, economic and ecological variables. 

Sahel countries have potential resources that can be utilised with the economic development in the region, for examples; industrial mining development in Eritrea, Danakil potash development programme, industrial development in Ethiopia in large scale, oil exploration and production in Ethiopia Somali region, fishing industrial development in the Red sea and Indian ocean coastal line, importing non-degradable industrial products, pollutants to the environment in the regions  need environmental management to protect from polluting the human society and the environment in the region(see fig. below)

Our organisation goal is to achieve environmental protection in the region through monitoring mankind activities that follows unsustainable programme. We, as non-governmental organisation tries to address environmental issues to the relevant organisation or governmental bodies so that actions can be taken to minimise the pollution in the region.

A prospective layout of Colluli Potash project, image; Courtesy of Dankali

Sudan oil refinery

    1.  Pollution 

There are different types of pollution that cause the air, water, land or other parts of the environment dirty and not safe or suitable to use. Pollution is occurred as a result of contamination of natural environment. The contaminants don’t need to be tangible and they are introducing to the environment by manmade activities which are pollutants. worldwide millions and millions of people can be affected by pollutants in the environment.

 2.2.1.  Air Pollution

The air we breathe has chemical composition that 99 percent made up of         nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor and inert gases. Air pollution occur when things that aren’t there normally are added to the air. A common type of air pollution in the Sahel countries happens when particulates are released from burning fuels, dangerous gases such as sulphur dioxide carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and chemical vapours, these particulates can take part in further chemical reactions once they are in the atmosphere, creating acid rain and smog (see fig below), and finally the can take the form of greenhouse gases ( the greenhouse  is when gases absorb the infrared radiation that is release from the earth, preventing the heat from escaping; this in turn warms the atmosphere) such as carbon dioxide or sulphur dioxide, which are warming the planet through the greenhouse effect.

Schematic drawing, causes and effects of air pollution: (1) greenhouse effect, (2) particulate contamination, (3) increased UV radiation, (4) acid rain, (5) increased ground-level ozone concentration, (6) increased levels of nitrogen oxides.

The effects of air pollution on human health not only through the indirect effect that release of greenhouse effect on the climate change but also have direct impact to human health that can widely vary depending on the pollutants. They may cause respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease, and increase in asthma. The air pollutants may be carcinogenic (e.g. some volatile organic compounds) or biologically active (e.g. some viruses) or radioactive (e.g. Radon). See fig below

In Sahel countries, burning fuels, and transportation are the major    sources carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide emission in to the atmosphere, in addition to the existing problems, with economic development in the region, more cities would emerge with high population that increase the demands of transportation and the use of more burning fuels as a source of energy that definitely increase the level of air pollution. Urgent action is needed to take in the environmental management policy that would result into the reduction of these gases through development of renewable energy in the region. Industrial development such as mining industries (in Eritrea; Danakil Colluli potash projects, almost three Gold mining industries, oil refinery facilities (in Sudan it expands to the higher capacities at Red Sea port, South Sudan there is a plan to build four oil refineries, and etc) will also increase the release of air pollutions.  (see fig below).

Our organisation acknowledges the environmental problem that is caused by air pollutants in the regions and its contribution to global greenhouse effect and we put our effort in tackling and addressing the emission of greenhouse gases in the region through environmental management such as by monitoring these gases emissions; in the cities, in industrial sites and oil production and refinery facilities in the region.  We promote the Sahel countries to implement sustainable projects like renewable energy projects such as; solar system, wind turbines, and geothermal energy and the use of renewable energy in public transportation sectors. Most importantly we promote the awareness of pollutants and their impacts to the public health via governmental media, advertisements, distributing awareness leaflets, publishing and updating climate change report (such as UN conference in 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change and Sir David Attenborough; a naturalist who spoke at UN climate talks in Poland on Monday 3/12/2018, he blamed humanity for the ‘global disaster’ and warned to the collapse of civilizations and extinction of much of the natural world ‘is on the horizon’ due to the rising of sea levels in astonishing level recently that is a greatest threat in thousands of years), reporting the regional activities back to the people in the region and from the region to the rest of world. 

      1. water pollution    

water pollution is caused by when chemicals or dangerous foreign substances are introduced to water, including chemicals, sewage, pesticides, and fertilizer from agriculture, or run off, or metals like lead, mercury, copper, cadmium. According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), lakes, and estuarine in most cities can be affected by common contaminates such as bacteria, mercury, lead, copper, phosphorous and nitrogen in developed countries and are not clean enough for fishing and swimming. These contaminates mostly come from agricultural runoff, air deposition, water diversions and channelization of streams.

The lack of adequate sanitation can increase sewage and other contaminates to enter the water supply. Sewage can reduce the level of dissolved oxygen through the decomposition of organic materials that enter into water, and this runoff water can contaminate the land which then severely affect marine life through polluting the marine environment. Nitrogen as nutrient can be applied to the soil using fertilizer during farming and the runoff water from the farming land can enter water bodies that make algae grow. When the algae grow at excessive rate, it blocks light from other plants and it lets the plants die. Their decomposition leads to less oxygen in the water that eventually kills aquatic animals.

Fecal sludge collected from pit latrines is dumped into a river at the Korogocho slum in Nairobi, Kenya.

The biggest environmental threats are from big rivers in the region running across the two or more countries such as Nile river, wabe-shebele river, awash river, gebe river and etc, the contaminate happens to one area can bring environmental problems to the other regions in the area. For example, with the build masterplan of refineries in South Sudan without a proper facility for its waste water treatment can contaminate the tributaries that enter to the Nile river and meet the other nile branch that comes from Ethiopia at Khartoum one the metropolitan city region. If this contamination continues without a proper plan at Khartoum it environmental degradation will bring irreversible damage to the whole Sahel countries and beyond. Even inside one country let us say Ethiopia second to the highest population in Africa, the expansion and building of the capital city in the last decade, have devastated the environment. The city didn’t have well adequate sewage and industrial wastes treatment facilities developed to enable its capacity of population growth and economy at such fastest rate. This series environmental degradation is very apparent and alarming. Awareness about the environmental problems is very limited among the society in the region.

Thus, it is necessary to build sewage treatment facilities in the region so that the treatment can remove solid materials, digesting dissolved and suspended organic materials as well as the nutrients and phosphorous that are the causes of less dissolved oxygen in the water bodies.

Heavy metals can bring major health effects through contaminating the water bodies. They don’t usually degrade and are toxic to aquatic life even at low concentration. The main health effects are associated with exposure to lead, cadmium, chromium, lead, nickel, mercury and arsenic, and drinking water (above the standard level of soluble copper and zinc) that doesn’t follow the regulatory compliance. 

A 25-foot (7.6 m) wall of coal fly ash contaminated with toxic heavy metals, resulting from the release of 5.4 million cubic yards of coal fly ash slurry into the Emory River, Tennessee, and nearby land and water features, in December 2008. Testing showed significantly elevated levels of arsenic, copper, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, nickel, and thallium in samples of slurry and river water. 

Cadmium compounds are currently mainly used in rechargeable nickel cadmium batteries and cadmium contained compounds are rarely recycled that may found widespread in the Sahel regions often dumped with household waste. People can be exposed to it when the contaminates reach to the water bodies and measured should be taken into action to have a safe environment through environmental management.

Lead exposure occurs in in our regions mainly through smelter when people welding of lead using painted metal, and in battery plants, ang motor garages. High level of lead air emissions can be deposited on soil and water, thus reaching human via as food chain.

A metal EDTA anion. Pb displaces Ca in Na 2[CaEDTA] to give Na 2[PbEDTA], which is passed out of the body in urine

Arsenic is a widely distributed metalloid occurring in rocks, soil, water and air. Smelting of iron-ferrous metals and the production of energy fossil fuel are the two major industrial processes that lead to arsenic contamination of air, water and soil.

Orpiment, a toxic arsenic mineral used in the tanning industry to remove hair from hides.

Potassium chromate, a carcinogen, is used in the dyeing of fabrics, and as a tanning agent to produce leather.

Heavy metals contaminate can be removed firstly at industrial wastewater treatment where wastewater from the industries can be treated so that in the discharged effluent water the pollutants comply with the local and /or national regulation in regard to the disposal of wastewater into community treatment plants or rivers, lakes or oceans. 

SCEMO promotes the wastewater treatments development programme in the region such as; building adequate sewage, industrial and agricultural wastewater treatment facilities so that the pollutants can be reduced and follow the regulatory compliance and maintain environmental sustainability in the region.

2.2.3. Land Pollution

Land can be polluted by household garbage’s and by industrial waste.

Garbage wastes are mostly solid organic materials, e.g.; plastics, rubber, leather, textiles and hazardous wastes like paints, solvents and motor oil, fluorescent light, aerosol cans, and ammunition that are not degradable and as a result it can pollute the land. 

Improperly deposed wastes.

Commercial or industrial wastes are a significant portion of the solid waste and from the industrial wastes, the hazardous once are any liquid, solid or sludge waste that is dangerous and harmful to human health. The Sahel countries has a long sea coast that are vulnerable to the hazardous waste that can be generated from the port services and the shipping route on the sea, industrial oil contaminations where oil enters the wastewater stream may include vehicle wash bays, workshops, fuel storage depots, transport hubs and power generation. Often the wastewater is discharged into local sewer or trade waste systems and Sahel countries have little or no enforced regulation. These discharged wastewaters must meet local environmental specifications and should be monitored through environmental management to tackle from polluting the region. Typical contaminants can include solvents, detergents, grit. lubricants and hydrocarbons. 

Mine wastewater effluent in Peru, with neutralized pH from tailing runoff. Ways to reduce land pollution

Economic incentives need to be put in place for farmers at the frontier of forests so that they intensify their production without expanding their land by cutting down the forests. Governments could put money into researching higher yielding varieties of tropical crops and then develop policies like subsidized seeds to encourage their use.

The farmers could be educated by local extension agencies in sustainable practices, preservation tillage, cover crops, crop rotation and adding crop residuals to increase the fertility of their soil instead of fertilisers that cause greenhouse gas emissions, and land, water and air pollution. 

Sustainably managed vegetable garden

The inhabitants of the forests could be taught other methods of earning an income that do not jeopardise the forest habitat, like ecotourism in its purest sense or small-scale businesses harvesting sustainable amounts of the forest’s resources and replacing them.

Insisting on organic food would be a very big start to reducing the adverse effects of agriculture on land.  Requiring sustainable practices that help land regenerate and reestablish a community of beneficial organisms between crops would be helpful.  Zoning requirements mandating havens of biological diversity at the edges of agricultural land, once the toxic chemicals are no longer in the equation of course, would work to promote the natural balance of life, where crickets and frogs and pollinators can all help make the land more productive. 

A possibility is bringing religious leaders into the picture to help educate their followers. Very often there is a dichotomy on environmental issues as the theory of evolution invites an easy divisiveness between science and religion, but that gap should be bridged as we reach toward a common solution. 

2.2.4 Noise Pollution

Noise pollution is associated with the development of cities, population in the cities and transportation. The problems relate with noise are stress related illness, high blood pressure, speech interference, and hearing loss. Along the Red Sea, as it would be the busiest route the sound from the ships can upset whale navigation systems and kill other species that depend on the natural underwater world. 

Whale from the effect of noise pollution

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