Lusaka — There is a strong link between provision of basic social services and the use of natural resources in a country. Thus, with increased population comes additional pressure on natural resources. This is a key finding in the latest Zambia Environment Outlook (ZEO) Report 4, published by the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA).
"The Zambia Environment Outlook 4 report is a fulfilment of our mandate and has been produced through broad stakeholder consultation which involved key government institutions, academia, research institutions, civil society organisations and the private sector," says John Msimuko, ZEMA Director General. "State of Environment reporting is important to the Agency and country at large, as it facilitates an understanding of the interactions between society, our environment and the economy."
ZEMA has previously guided State of Environment reporting in 1994, 2001 and 2008.
And Msimuko says the Agency remains committed to the programme and welcomes contributions from stakeholders in our quest to continuously improve the reporting process, as well as overall environmental governance in Zambia.
The report, which was officially launched on Thursday, 23rd May, 2019, finds that Zambia's population grew by 18.3 percent from 2010 to 2015, and that this growth in turn resulted in additional pressure on the environment.
According to Dr. Bishop Ed Chomba, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection, the report has highlighted some key environmental issues that the country is grappling with.
"The report has made some revelations such as population increase which has a direct bearing on the country's natural resources. For example, it finds that the population has, and will continue to grow, thereby exerting pressure on the economy and provision of basic social services; most of which depend on the environment, "said Dr. Chomba during the launch.
As with recent research findings, the report finds that Zambia's forests are under threat as a result of various factors leading to high deforestation rate of between 250,000 and 300,000 hectares per year leading to the reduction of biodiversity. Land use change and high demand for fuel wood--the main source of energy for the majority have been cited as key drivers of deforestation.
In addition to this, the report notes an increase in human animal conflicts from approximately 345 in 2003 to 4,664 in 2011, and this trend is likely to continue if human encroachments into protected areas are not addressed.
"Water demand for domestic and industrial use increased while supply remained largely the same. In 2010, demand was 1.3 million cubic meters per day against the production capacity of 946,000 million cubic meters and was projected to increase to 2.4 million cubic meters per day by 2015. The need to safeguard Zambia's headwaters to regulate developmental activities in sensitive water catchment areas cannot be overemphasised," said Dr. Chomba.
According to the report, Zambia receives an average of 744km3 amount of rainfall annually, but it is estimated that runoff percentage including groundwater recharge ranges from 5 to 35 percent. Improved storage is therefore required.
On the economic front, the report notes that Zambia's economy was mainly driven by sustained expansion in agriculture, construction, manufacturing, transport and communications, and by a rebound in mining. With the majority of the population accounting for 58.2 percent living in rural areas and dependent on subsistence agriculture for their livelihood, while the economy continues to rely on the mining sector for its forex, sustainable usage of the environment is therefore not a debatable issue.
In terms of waste management, the report notes how urbanisation has contributed to increased waste generation in all major towns in Zambia. The increase, particularly of municipal waste, the report notes, adds pressure to Local Authorities to keep the environment clean and healthy.
As a result, the report finds that improper waste disposal methods have continued to be used, thereby contributing to pollution.
Increased usage of chemicals, accompanied by poor crop husbandry practices have been cited as key drivers of land degradation, consequently leading to poor productivity. The report finds that a total of 376,506 tonnes and 3,490,806 liters of agro-chemicals were imported into Zambia between 2007 and 2013. These were mainly used in the control of weeds and pests that affect both crop and animal production.
The report notes however that climate change, whose consequences manifest mainly through droughts and floods, have been on a rise and require urgent attention to support farmers with adaptive capacity to continue producing enough food.
Another interestingly aspect is that the ZEO 4 has drawn attention to is the emerging challenge of electronic waste on the environment.
The high-level demand for electronic gadgets has led to an influx of second hand equipment from developed countries, many of which are old, near or at end of life, hence the increase in electronic waste, reads part of the report. Unfortunately, there is no facility in the country for managing the disposal of e-waste in an environmentally sound manner.