Reports On the State of the Environments in Ethiopia: What Report?
The Monitor (Addis Ababa), August 30, 2000
OPINION AND ANALYSIS
By Berhe W. Aregay
Have there ever been yearly or even once-in-five-year comprehensive reports on the state of the environment of the country? I am afraid not.
Yes there are all sorts of figures given from all directions which boil down to mere guesses. Example: our soil export (even if the export is gratis and earns the country only contempt by our trade partners) how much is it? Your guess is as good as the next person's.
There're also cliches. Example: Ethiopia is endowed with so much natural resources that they are inexhaustible.
On the other hand, however, many people have admitted that there are few countries that have their natural resources at risk as much as Ethiopia's. Otherwise comprehensive, timely surveys are definitely not there.
Most countries periodically issue reports of the state of their environment either in their parliaments or at some other formal forum. And since matters of the environment are supposed to be non-partisan issues and of enduring importance to countries, such reports, even if damning, are supposed to be accepted with grace.
That is why even countries that have centralized systems of government, publish non-flattering reports about themselves.
(Beijing Review, July 10, 2000).
We hope to see reports for Ethiopia too in the near future. Few of the topics the report could include are given below: Budget: how much of the yearly government budget (Federal or Regional) is allocated, directly or indirectly for the protection of the environment and development of the our natural resources? And is the size of that budget commensurate with the magnitude of the task at hand? It isn't implied here that the bigger the budget the better; but zero budget takes you nowhere either.
Pollution Levels: How high or how low do pollution levels of air, noise, water etc. stand now? And as the years pass are we faring better or worse? Yes, the country has, relatively speaking, few vehicles and industries to cause big alarm, but still it is good to know.
Localized deterioration: Some localities have more pollution than others. Addis has in every respect more pollution than, say,
Dukem has more cacophony than, say, Tefgie, which in turn has its own problem. Every rainy season it is submerged in water for the duration of Kiremt.
Therefore, local based reports and updates could be more handy for planning purposes. Water environments: This includes rivers, lakes, streams and underground water.
What is the extent of industrial and urban sewage in the bodies of water above in the country? Is it millions of tons per year or just a few buckets of pollutants? We need to know. Experts and decision makers ought to know.
How serious is non-point pollution? The worst pollution in our rivers comes from plain mud. The mud as you know comes mostly from soil eroded from cultivated fields.
So you lose vital plant nutrients from one area which in turn becomes big polluter of rivers. Mud in rivers suffocates fish to death.
In Ethiopia you are in luck if you see a stream that has clear, clean water. Maybe you will have to go to peripheries of monasteries.
How about the states of the lakes, both in the Rift Valley and in other areas? We have been hearing a lot about Koka Dam lately in relation to siltation, of course. Is that dam the exception or is it the smoking gun? Have we been exploiting the fish in the lakes without proper survey and monitoring? Are the fish we eat healthy anyway? Others: Other environmental matters that proper information will be needed on, among others, are: industrial solid waste, climate change and natural disasters, cultivated lands, forests and grasslands, biodiversity.
If you consider briefly climate change and natural disasters, are floods increasing over the years? if so why? Do they have localized causes or do we simply attribute it to El Nino? Now our readers may ask how Ethiopia with its present low level of economic and scientific capability can do those kind of surveys on the environment? A partial answer to that is that environment and agriculture are so intertwined, we have to do it for agriculture's sake.
Copyright © 2000 The Monitor. Distributed by allAfrica.com. For information about the content or for permission to redistribute, publish or use for broadcast, contact the publisher.