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Zambia: Ad677 – Zambians Look to One Another and Government for Action to Safeguard the Environment

Three-fourths of citizens favour tighter regulation of natural resource extraction to reduce its environmental impacts.

Key findings

  • ▪ More than half (52%) of Zambians say pollution is a “somewhat serious” or “very serious” problem in their community. o Citizens cite trash disposal, deforestation, and pollution of water sources as the most important environmental issues in their community. o More than two-thirds (69%) of citizens say plastic bags are a major source of pollution in Zambia.
  • ▪ About six in 10 Zambians (58%) say the primary responsibility for reducing pollution and keeping communities clean rests with local citizens. Far fewer would defer that responsibility to their local governments (19%) or the national government (13%).
  • ▪ Even so, most Zambians (72%) say the government should be doing more to limit pollution and protect the environment, including 61% who say it needs to do “much more.”
  • ▪ A majority (55%) of citizens would prioritise environmental protection over jobs and income creation, while 40% say the government should focus on creating jobs and growing incomes, even if it means increasing pollution or other environmental damage.
  • ▪ Only 39% of Zambians say the benefits of natural resource extraction, such as jobs and revenue, outweigh negative impacts such as pollution.
  • ▪ Only 31% think local communities receive a fair share of the revenues from natural resource extraction.
  • ▪ And a large majority (74%) want the government to regulate natural resource extraction more tightly in order to reduce its negative impacts on the environment.

Zambia’s economic development is tied closely to the environment: Mining, tourism, agriculture, and forestry contribute the biggest share of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and export value (Aongola et al., 2009; World Bank, 2020).

Copper alone generates more than 80% of export earnings and is the backbone of Zambia’s economy, complemented by mining of cobalt, gold, nickel, lead, silver, uranium, zinc, and numerous precious and semi-precious stones. Natural assets such as waterfalls, lakes, rivers, and a variety of wildlife species contribute to the country’s economic development via job creation and foreign exchange revenues (Policy Monitoring and Research Centre, 2021; International Labour Organization, 2021; World Bank, 2020).

The balance of economic development and environmental protection is critical in Zambia, as industry, urbanisation, and climate change take a heavy toll, including pollution of soil, air, and water, with attendant effects on human health and wildlife; rapid deforestation and loss of wetlands; severe drought; inadequate sanitation; and trash-disposal challenges in cities (UNEP, 2021, 2023; Slunge & Ölund Wingqvist, 2010; Chibwili, 2023).