Tough choices face Africa's environment

Posted: 18 July 2002

A new report on the state of Africa's environment was issued by the United Nations in the run up to the World Summit meeting in Johannesburg. The picture it paints is a disturbing one.

Sharp increases in air and water pollution, land degradation, droughts and wildlife losses are facing Africa unless urgent action is taken to deliver environmentally-friendly development for its citizens, says the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)report.

Growing populations, wars, high levels of national debt, natural disasters and disease have all taken their toll on the people and the rich natural environment of Africa in the past three decades.

Over the coming three decades new and emerging threats, including climate change, the unchecked spread of alien, introduced species, uncontrolled expansion of cities and pollution from cars and industry are likely to aggravate levels of poverty, environmental decline and ill-health.

Many African countries are now attempting to address some of the root causes of environmental degradation through initiatives such as the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). But a far bigger effort, by countries within and outside the Continent, is needed to steer Africa on a prosperous, environmentally-sustainable, course.

Actions include deeper cuts in Africa's debt burden, a boost in overseas aid, the empowering of local communities, enforcing environmental agreements, introducing green and clean technologies and allowing African countries fair access to international markets for their goods and services

Without this, Africa is unlikely to develop in a way that benefits its people, its landscapes and its wildlife and ultimately the world, the report says.

The report, compiled by UNEP for the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), has involved hundreds of experts. It is the most comprehensive and authoritative assessment of the Continent's environment ever produced.

Related link:

African Environment Outlook