Madagascar has one of the lowest environmental indices on the planet. One in five deaths on the island is caused by environmental degradation and its effects on health. Various researchers have sounded the alarm during a conference day on this topic.
From our correspondent in Antananarivo,
In 2016, a study was initiated on the concentration of heavy metals in live fish in rice fields in and around the capital. Four years later, the results are overwhelming. Pollution of the aquatic environment with lead and chromium reaches levels well above the standards approved by the WHO and FAO. The accumulation of these heavy metals in the soil is noticeable up to 10 km around Antananarivo. This pollution has several factors, explains Jean-Michel Mortillaro, researcher at CIRAD in aquatic ecology, led this study.
“This comes from urban waste from industry, crafts that are not cleaned. And by the population, because there is no water treatment today. All this dirty water seeps down to the Masay bog, which feeds a large part of the rice fields around the capital. Our observations indicate that fish farming, fishing, in Tana is incompatible with human health; pollution levels are too high, says Jean-Michel Mortillaro. And urban agriculture in general (watercress, rice cultivation) can be very problematic for human health and should therefore be questioned. “
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As a reminder, lead poisoning can lead especially to children to mental retardation and profound intellectual disabilities. A second study, which will soon be published and which focuses on pollution in rural areas, reports a very high use of pesticides. Thus, it has been observed that water contaminated by a cocktail of contaminants in two days causes genetic mutations in the cells of rice, onions and the blood of fish. A change that raises many questions.
Such a high level of air pollution
Regarding air pollution, the study led by the National Institute of Nuclear Sciences and Techniques shows that the situation worsened between 2015 and 2017. Thus, when car traffic is normal in the capital, the pollution level is 3 to 4 times higher than WHO standards, explains Lucienne Randriamanivo, head of the X-ray fluorescence and environmental analysis department.
“But when the traffic is very, very dense, it is ten times, 15 times higher,” she insists. What we have observed is that air pollution on market days is very high due to the very dense road traffic. We sent the results to the municipality of Antananarivo and to the deputies so that they can make decisions. But so far we have not felt that anything is moving among the decision-makers. ”
Look for new solutions
All these pessimistic tasks could still feed new ideas about the crucial role of urban planning, from the rules established by the municipalities to better allocate these market days.
This conference day also showed how the issue of environmental impact on health was not only reserved for the Ministries of Health and the Environment. Customs, by controlling and banning the import of old vehicles, may also play a key role in limiting this ever-increasing air pollution.
Just like civil society, which is already campaigning and raising public awareness of the risks. As the media, which warns and communicates about developments in the situation. Or like science and its researchers, who more than ever are pursuing research further to uncover the problems of environmental degradation and propose solutions.
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