Distribution of heavy metals in Gaborone urban soils (Botswana) and its relationship to soil pollution and bedrock composition

M. Zhai, H. A.B. Kampunzu, M. P. Modisi, O. Totolo

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57 Citations (Scopus)


The capital city of Botswana, Gaborone, has seen unprecedented population, economic, and industrial growth in recent years. In order to assess how this rapid urbanisation process impacts the environment, 106 silt and clay (particle size <0.053 mm) samples, separated from Gaborone surface soil samples representing urban, agricultural and rural sites, were investigated. The concentrations of nine heavy metals (Sc, Cr, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, Nb, Cd, and Pb) were measured using ICP-MS and GFAAS, and the resulting patterns were correlated to the bedrock composition and anthropogenic activities. As expected, we found that samples from soils on top of dolerites show higher levels of Cr, Ni, and Cu than those on top of granites and rhyolites. However, our studies also show that Gaborone city centre soils are moderately polluted by Pb (up to 222 mg/kg, i.e. 5.7-fold the concentration in comparable rural soils), as a result of heavy traffic. Furthermore, Cr and Ni pollution originating from agrochemicals were shown to be accumulating in Gaborone crop soils. Our studies also showed moderate levels of Zn pollution and low level, dot-shaped pollution of Cr, Co, Ni, Cu detected in Gaborone residential and industrial soils that are correlated to waste disposal. Interestingly, the highest levels of Sc, Cr, Co, Ni and Zn pollution are found near two abandoned sewage works. The results of sequential extraction indicate that the polluting Co and Ni exist in all speciations; the polluting Cu mainly exists in the residue of the sequential extraction, whereas the polluting Pb is mostly bound to organic matters and Fe- and Mn-oxides. These results highlight the need for instituting a systematic and continuous monitoring of heavy metals and other forms of pollutants in Gaborone to ensure that pollution does not become a serious problem in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-180
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Geology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Pollution
  • Soil Science


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