May 18, 2012

Q&A About Pollution In Lake Koka, Ethiopia

Lake Koka, lying close to the capital Addis Ababa, represents the main source for water and providing also hydroelectic  energy for the inhabitants in its neighborood. Besides a resource it also used to be an idyllic and beautiful place, now heavily contaminated by pollutants and dangerous for the people who have no other choices than to drink the contaminated water. Exploitation of such valuable natural resources is cutting-the-edge topic, is getting more and more attention from policy makers as the need to act becomes increasingly important.

Below is the question made to the European Commission by Mr David Martin MEP of the S&D Political Group at the European Parliament:

Subject: Pollution in Lake Koka (Ethiopia)             

On 22 March 2012, organisations and individuals around the world marked United Nation’s World Water Day and its emphasis upon ‘Water and Food Security’. But as the International Decade for Action ‘Water for Life’ nears its end in 2015, much still remains to be done.

Ethiopia’s man-made Lake Koka is the result of the country’s drive to maximise its agricultural and hydroelectric potential, and initially provided local Oromo communities and others with a new and valuable water resource for farming, fishing and recreation. However, the ongoing contamination of Lake Koka with effluent from commercial operations lying upstream has left it poisoned.

Lake Koka represents a key natural resource upon which thousands of livelihoods rely, the contamination of which has caused many to contract diseases. As the contamination has worsened, the Ethiopian authorities have appeared unable or unwilling to address the causes of pollution and to rectify its effects.

Have the Commission and the European Union’s Delegation in Ethiopia raised the issue of Lake Koka and the need for its rehabilitation with the Ethiopian authorities, and what initiatives are they undertaking or supporting to ensure that Lake Koka can be restored as a useable water resource without delay?


Below is the answer given by the Mr Piebalgs on behalf of the European Commission:



Answer given by Mr Piebalgs

on behalf of the Commission


Following the construction of a dam in the Awash River, Lake Koka emerged as a man-made lake around 1960, serving the communities close to it with water for human and livestock consumption and for irrigation. In the past years, widespread concern has been expressed on the pollution of the lake and the effects of the pollution on human and livestock health. Pollution is the result of the discharge of toxic waste from industries in the vicinity of lake Koka, as well those located near Addis Ababa and Akaki (tanneries, but also textile, metal and chemical factories and flower farms), releasing waste materials into the tributaries of the Awash river.

The situation has received repeated coverage by local and international media, including the Government-owned Ethiopian Radio and television. The Government of Ethiopia is therefore well aware of the situation.

The political dialogue with Ethiopia has focused so far on human rights, civil society, resettlement, energy and macroeconomic issues, and intense discussions have taken place on food security and the humanitarian situation. Thus far the specific issue of Lake Koka has not been raised with the Ethiopian authorities. However, in the dialogue with the Government of Ethiopia, due attention is given to general considerations of environmental sustainability of the development plans, processes and interventions, including industrialisation. In the framework of the upcoming EU joint programming exercise, the EU Delegation will pay attention to have environmental issues such as those of Lake Koka properly addressed within the EU assistance constellation in Ethiopia.