Impacts and Policy Implications of Metals Effluent Discharge into Rivers within Industrial Zones: A Sub-Saharan Perspective from Ethiopia

E. Zinabu*, P. Kelderman, J. van der Kwast, K. Irvine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Kombolcha, a city in Ethiopia, exemplifies the challenges and problems of the sub-Saharan countries where industrialization is growing fast but monitoring resources are poor and information on pollution unknown. This study monitored metals Cr, Cu, Zn, and Pb concentrations in five factories’ effluents, and in the effluent mixing zones of two rivers receiving discharges during the rainy seasons of 2013 and 2014. The results indicate that median concentrations of Cr in the tannery effluents and Zn in the steel processing effluents were as high as 26,600 and 155,750 µg/L, respectively, much exceeding both the USEPA and Ethiopian emission guidelines. Cu concentrations were low in all effluents. Pb concentrations were high in the tannery effluent, but did not exceed emission guidelines. As expected, no metal emission guidelines were exceeded for the brewery, textile and meat processing effluents. Median Cr and Zn concentrations in the Leyole river in the effluent mixing zones downstream of the tannery and steel processing plant increased by factors of 52 (2660 compared with 51 µg Cr/L) and 5 (520 compared with 110 µg Zn/L), respectively, compared with stations further upstream. This poses substantial ecological risks downstream. Comparison with emission guidelines indicates poor environmental management by industries and regulating institutions. Despite appropriate legislation, no clear measures have yet been taken to control industrial discharges, with apparent mismatch between environmental enforcement and investment policies. Effluent management, treatment technologies and operational capacity of environmental institutions were identified as key improvement areas to adopt progressive sustainable development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)700-715
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • Ethiopia
  • Industrial effluents
  • Kombolcha
  • metals
  • Policy enforcement

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