Environmental Issues in Zimbabwe

ZIMBABWE, like any other country in the world, is facing extraordinary and multidimensional environmental challenges. The environment is an inseparable sector from the economy and food security, which is why it is important for the people of Zimbabwe to promptly address environmental challenges. The problem of environmental degradation is far more complex than originally perceived.

With the abundant natural resources in Zimbabwe, there is a great potential for economic development and eventually poverty reduction if resources are used in a sustainable manner.

The underlying causes to the environmental challenges in Zimbabwe include poorly crafted legislation and little to no enforcement of existing legislation that is underpinned by corruption.

Poverty and Environment

Citizens who occupy the bottom of the socioeconomic hierarchy heavily rely on the natural environment. This directly causes deforestation in Zimbabwe as people require firewood for cooking energy and it inturn leads to vegetation destruction.

Despite Zimbabwe’s long history of biodiversity preservation, the abundant biodiversity is being lost mainly due to habitat destruction from expansion of agricultural lands, timber logging, wood fuel collection, poaching, and invasion of alien species, droughts, fires, and high elephant densities.

The distribution of people and productive agricultural resources is uneven, leading to problems of land degradation, where large numbers of people and livestock are concentrated on marginal lands.

Clean Water Provision

Zimbabwe is a semi-arid country and water, which is a key resource, is unevenly distributed in time and space. Groundwater drawn from underground streams and aquifers make provision for both rural and urban areas, although water availability remains an increasing problem.

Reduced water availability is caused by over-extraction due to population growth, urbanisation and industrialisation, resulting in increased competition between water using stakeholders. Despite high rainfall amounts received by the country during the 2016-17 rain seasons, many Zimbabwean cities continue to experience acute water shortages.

In his State of the City address of 2017, Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni of Harare metropolitan bemoaned the state of Harare’s environment as far as clean water provision and distribution is concerned, citing political interference with Harare City Council (HCC) affairs and functions.

A recent report said that Harare residents should brace for more water cuts as pumps at the city’s water treatment works constantly break down. These problems are not unique to Harare City Council but are a daily occurrence in almost every city in Zimbabwe. Harare City Council’s waste water treatment plants have a capacity of 220 mega litres a day but are currently producing only 132 mega litres. Water supply and treatment systems have of late been characterised by obsolete infrastructure, and 55% of water is lost through bursts and illegal connections. Harare City Council alone requires $178 million to fund the replacement of its water piping and network rehabilitation.

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