Major Cities in Africa are grappling with monumental challenges that are placing hurdles in the move towards green economy.
Rapid industrialization and population growth in these Cities has constrained the ability to cope with high levels of air and water pollution, hence the slow pace in greening these cities.
A panel of experts roundtable held at the ongoing UNEP Governing Council meeting in Nairobi noted that Cities are critical in catalyzing the move towards low carbon economy in Africa.
However, this can only be made possible through increased investments, development of sound policies and political goodwill, required to raise the bar in limiting greenhouse gas emissions in Africa’s burgeoning cities.
Angela Cropper, UNEP Deputy Executive Director noted that Cities presents huge potential in realization of green goals among African Countries” if only authorities move urgently to tackle basic challenges revolving around poor infrastructure, high levels of pollution and overstretched capacity of basic amenities such as water and sanitation to meet growing population.”
She reiterated that Cities are the next frontier for greening the planet and Africa must capture this opportunity by scaling up efforts that would add impetus on the move towards low carbon economy. Cropper observed that one half of the total global population live in Cities.
“African Cities are the new frontiers for industrial growth in the light of influx of rural population that have moved to the cities in search of better livelihoods.”
She says As a result, informal settlements have mushroomed in these Cities. Poor urban planning and poverty has created setbacks in efforts to restore ecological health in the Cities.
For Cities in Africa to attain green goals, greater efforts must be devoted towards improved solid and liquid waste management, as well as construction of ecofriendly low cost houses, says. CropperCities emit 75% of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
In Africa, Cities are responsible for atmospheric pollution whose ripple effects are being felt in the rural areas as evidenced by rising health and ecological disasters.
Africa governments must therefore invest in innovative but less costly technologies to curb greenhouse gas emissions in major Cities; this is according to Sylvie Lemmet, Director, UNEP Division for Technology, Industry and Economics Lemmet contends that African Cities can be transformed to boost their capacity in greening the economy.
“This can be realized through engaging the citizens, private sector and civic authorities in the application of green technologies while developing physical infrastructure such as housing, energy, water and sanitation”.
She said mutual partnership among these key stakeholders can assist in development of low cost houses fitted with solar panels. “Ecosanitation projects, recycling of liquid and solid waste are critical in development of renewable energy in these cities”, she says.
The Mayor of Entebbe, Stephen Kabuye reiterated that Africa Cities can provide the required impetus to green the Countries` economies.
“This can be realized through prudent use of natural resources to meet the demand on the population and maintain ecological balance”, he says.
Kabuye notes that high population growth has exerted pressure on Lake Victoria natural resources and is as well responsible for pollution on the Worlds second largest fresh water body. “Uganda government has therefore imposed a ban on illegal fishing in the lake”, says Kabuye.
The government of Uganda is assisting communities living in cities and Municipalities adjacent to Lake Victoria to implement pollution control programmes.
“The government is encouraging energy efficiency by helping communities acquire energy saving stoves to minimize firewood use. Other measures include promotion of renewable energy such as solar and wind”, says Kabuye.
Recycling of solid and liquid waste at the local level to curb pollution is being encouraged. Entebbe Municipality is promoting use of broken bottles in security fences. Cattle, fish bones and food peelings are being used to manufacture animal feed, he adds.
Pollution at Kaptai Lake is taking a serious turn due to open defecation by the slum dwellers and unabated dumping of garbage and wastes everyday, causing waterborne diseases like diarrhoea, dysentery and jaundice.
The people in Rangamati and Kaptai may face disasters if water pollution and crisis of safe drinking water continue. It also may cause environmental disaster any time, environmentalists said.
Dumping of wastes, open defecation by the slum dwellers and the passengers of water transports are the prime causes of pollution at Kaptai Lake, sources said.
They said several lakh people living in the lake areas in Rangamati and Kaptai are facing the problem as they use water of the lake in daily household and other purposes. Many of the families, including indigenous people, used to drink lake water directly.
Rangamati unit of National NGO Forum, working on safe water and sanitation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), also found very alarming result during its survey and test on lake water.
Its officials have collected water from the most polluted areas of the lake. Total Coli Form (TCF) and Facile Form (RCF) were 800 and 300 respectively in per 100 millilitres in the Rajbari area, 500 TCF and 350 FCF at Banarupa while 600 TCF and 450 FCF in the Reserve Bazar area, according to the test. TCF and FCF level should be zero in water, said Alak Bikash Dewan, an official of the NGO Forum.
Md Anwar Hossain, environmentalist and secretary of Rangamati Environment Conservation and Development Organisation (RECDO), said immediate step is needed to save the lake from pollution. Otherwise, it may cause disastrous situation in future.
He said due to the pollution, waterborne diseases are spreading fast as many depend on the lake water for their bathing and drinking.
Following this, number of patients with waterborne diseases at the Rangamati General Hospital was also increasing, district Civil Surgeon (CS) office sources said.