Social Innovation Factsheet #1.5: Monitoring water pollution from industries and urban areas to protect human health and ecosystems
On one hand, the extent of the water and sanitation challenges vary across the African continent depending on the levels of urbanisation, industrial activities and the effectiveness of waste management law and regulation. As an example of human pressure, between 2005 and 2010, Africa’s urban population grew at a rate of 3.4 percent mostly in peri-urban slum neighbourhoods. Supplying safe drinking water and ensuring environmental hygiene has become a major challenge that could, for example, reduce morbidity from diarrhoea-related diseases by 40 percent in Africa. The burden of disease is also likely to increase as health-promoting ecosystem services are lost.
On the other hand, economic development is a political priority to improve the well-being of the population. One side effect is the growth of industrial activities, in a context where very few regulations are in place to keep these industries from dumping wastewater and toxic chemicals into existing water supplies.
As a result of industrial and urban development, water pollution (including solid waste) is growing due to the indiscriminate dumping of effluents (e.g. chlorides, phosphates, oil and grease, heavy metals, etc.) that reaches water bodies. The type (e.g. chemical, biological) and the concentration of pollution become key information for integrated water management.
In the face of non-point source of pollution, monitoring industrial and urban emissions is necessary to identify and characterise the different sources and flows of pollutants. This would also provide opportunities for industries to adopt cleaner technologies, processes, and practices as well as for water regulation and policy to set prevention, depollution and mitigation measures for water pollution.