What are the Effects of Acid Rain in Africa?

What are the Effects of Acid Rain in Africa?


There are numerous varieties of acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, both in our diet and in our bodies. Because of the sulfuric acid in their batteries, automobiles may start. Pool acid, also referred to as hydrochloric acid, is necessary for swimming pools. Some acids, such as lemon juice and acetic acid (vinegar), are weak. They are utilized to prepare our meals and are not dangerous. However, others, like sulfuric acid (battery acid), are potent and can cause damage to our clothing.



Pure water is only found in labs, which are the only places on earth where they exist. There are usually trace levels of contaminants in rainwater. These contaminants originate in dust particles or are taken up by airborne gases. When carbon dioxide from the air comes in contact with pure water, it forms carbonic acid and changes from pH 7, which is neutral, to pH 5,6. Rain can reach a pH of 4,5 even in isolated, uninhabited locations. A pH of less than 4.5 in rain, however, is almost likely the result of pollution.


Release of the gases SO2 (sulfur dioxide) and NOX is what leads to acid rain (nitrous oxides). In South Africa, coal-fired power plants and metalworking industries are the main emitters of SO2. Vehicles and fuel combustion are the main causes of NOX emissions. Sulfuric acid is created when sulphur dioxide combines with water vapor and sunshine. In the same way, NOX causes nitric acid to develop in the atmosphere.

Polluted air may travel hundreds of kilometers during these hours-long or even days-long reactions. Acid rain can therefore occur far beyond the point of pollution. Condensing mist or fog droplets can become more acidic than acid rain by absorbing contaminants from the atmosphere. Snow itself can contain acid. Low pH gases and particles that are not dissolved in water can also be directly deposited on grass, leaves, and soil. It's possible that this method deposits even more acidity than rain does! About this process, little is known, and research on it is very challenging.

* Acid rain can make lakes, dams, and streams more acidic, which will kill aquatic life.  *Acid rain can make soil, water, and shallow groundwater more acidic.
* In North America and Europe, acid rain has been linked to tree mortality. *Monuments and buildings are damaged by acid rain. People's respiratory issues may be exacerbated by acidic airborne particles.

Despite extensive research, no one is yet certain of the exact ways that acid rain damages forests. Large expanses of just one tree species make up the majority of Europe's woods. This promotes the spread of diseases and pests that affect plants. It appears likely that acid rain weakens plants, possibly with the assistance of other pollutants like ozone, and then exposes the trees to disease. Additionally, acid rain affects how readily available soil nutrients are.


A combination of factors, including heat, cold, drought, nutrition disruption, and disease, may cause a tree to eventually die. It appears that the slower-growing, longer-living forests of the North may be more vulnerable than the South African woods' faster-growing, shorter-living counterparts.

The Eastern Transvaal Highveld, the nation's industrial hub, is home to most of South Africa's coal-burning power plants and sizable metalworking businesses. From here, electricity is dispersed around the country, and a large portion of our exports are made in this area. The majority of the pollution in the nation is generated in this region, which in 1987 generated 1.84 million tonnes of sulphuric acid and 0.84 million tonnes of nitric acid. It should come as no surprise that acid rain occurs in this area. Its pH averages 4,2 and can occasionally drop as low as 3,7. It is unknown if this is affecting our trees or our crops. Forest destruction has certain telltale indications, but there are other potential causes as well. In South Africa, the CSIR, Eskom, and other organizations are conducting research on this problem.

It is impossible to find an easy fix overnight. We must use energy more wisely in our homes, cars, and businesses. Alternative energy sources like nuclear power and hydroelectric electricity will require careful consideration. Although it is quite expensive, it is possible to reduce acidic emissions from coal combustion. Although this would only be a partial solution, it may be possible to produce plants and trees that are resistant to pollution. In actuality, we'll probably need to combine all of these concepts and inventions.

About the author(s)

Lawrence Slade is CEO of the London-based Global Infrastructure Investor Association, or GIIA.

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