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Gadaa.comThe Akaki River is a part of the Awash River catchment, which drains the central and eastern part of Oromia. The river consists of two main branches, the confluence of which is at the Aba-Samuel reservoir. The western branch of the river, the Little Akaki, rises north-west of Addis Ababa on the flanks of Wechacha mountain and flows for 40 km before it reaches the reservoir. The eastern branch of the river, the Great Akaki, rises north-east of Addis Ababa and flows into Aba-Samuel reservoir after 53 km.

The Akaki River is used as open waste disposal site for the city of Addis Ababa. Apart from its unfortunate fact, the river is also used as a source of drinking water for the rural population living outside Addis Ababa and Akaki. Furthermore, vegetables consumed in the nearby cities are also produced using polluted waters from the river. The region, especially the Akaki–Aba-Samuel wetlands, is also of particular ecological use. According to Birdlife International, the Akaki - Aba-Samuel wetlands is important for supporting wintering water birds, over 20,000 being present occasionally.

Video: The Akaki River Runs Red, Blue, Sometimes Yellow

By Kiran Khalid of the VJ Movement

Facts About Akaki River's Pollution

Polluted water from a tannery mixing with the Akaki River
(Photo: Flickr)

Gadaa.com Most of the industries in Ethiopia are located in Addis Ababa and the nearby town of Akaki, a region where the Akaki River drains. According to a study by Mebratu D. in 1990 and 2000, only 6 and 20% of the industries in and around Addis Ababa had treatment plants, respectively. The rest of the industries have been discharging their effluents into the Akaki River without any form of treatment. These include effluents discharged from: textiles, metal, food, soft beverage and tanneries. Most of these industries discharge their waste directly into these rivers, the volume of liquid waste generated from each industry varying from 1 to 1000 m3/day (Benoist, 2002).

Gadaa.com Domestic waste is another major source of pollution for the Akaki River. According to the Health Bureau of Addis Ababa Administration, the collection of waste during the year 1996 was 54% of the total waste generated (Adane B, 1999; Enda Ethiopia and Preceup, 1999).

Gadaa.com Apart from the leachate from solid waste, sewage waters also flow directly or indirectly into the Akaki River, due to a limited sewerage system present in the cities.

Gadaa.com Currently, the Akaki River is extremely polluted - one of the most polluted river systems in the country. BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) measurements show that the river is anaerobic, for most of its parts. Assessment of the fauna also reveals the only species to be found are worms that could survive under low oxygen conditions (Tubifex Tubifex i.e. red worms). Apart from the low oxygen level the elevated level of nitrite, some trace elements (Pb and Mn) and some toxic compounds (dioxin-like and estrogen-like compounds) observed in the little Akaki River indicates there is a threat to the ecosystem. In these locations, the high levels of Cr, Pb, NO2 and dioxin-like compounds also indicate risks to human health (Teklehaimanot RR, 2003). High build up metals i.e. arsenic in Swiss chard (Beta Vulgaris Var Circa L.) and chromium in lettuce (Allium Cepa L.) observed in a number of farms in the Akaki area suggest possible human health risks via food consumption. The observed level of iron and lead is also a reason for concern (Fisseha I, 2002).

Gadaa.com Litters of plastic bags and household waste along the banks are also a common sight.

== For the above citations and source, please read: Proposal for organizing a National Roundtable on Sustainable Consumption and Production in Akaki River Basin. Even though this is an initiative put forward by one of the government agencies in 2004, little or no improvements have been made towards reducing the health risks of Akaki River or restoring the environment.

Appalling Pollution in Picture

Source: Flickr

Lake Koka's Pollution

The Vanished Lake Haramaya

Latest News

WHO: International Standards for Drinking Water

These are facts from the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding the heavy metal contaminants found in Akaki River. Most of these chemicals are found to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) by WHO.

Chemical   Danger to Human Beings
  Bladder, skin, lung cancers.
  Kidney failure.
  Damage to the nervous system, especially in children.
  Carcinogenic - accumulates in kidneys.

Links: Info on the Pollution

- The Guardian: Not a drop to drink

- Birdlife International: Akaki - Aba-Samuel wetlands

- Proposal for organizing a National Roundtable on Sustainable Consumption and Production in Akaki River Basin

- Akaki River Said Toxic

- Living with urban environmental health risks: the case of Ethiopia (Citation from Google Books Search)

- Capital Ethiopia: Bounty from a polluted river

- Pollution Status of Tinishu Akaki River  and Its Tributaries (Ethiopia) Evaluated Using Physico-Chemical Parameters, Major Ions and Nutrients

- Environment in Peril in Oromia, Ethiopia

- Ethiopia won't slow down for their carelessness

- VOA: Industrial pollution of Akaki, Modjo and Sebeta rivers

- World Health Organization's (WHO) International Standards for Chemicals in Drinking Water (PDF)


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