6 Ensure environmental sustainability

Where we are?

A combination of erratic rainfall, illegal mining activities, bush fires and deforestation has resulted to degradation of the environment in the Save Valley. Photo - UNDP Zimbabwe
  • Decline in proportion of land covered by forest at the depletion rate of 140,000 per year.
  • Between 1990 and 2003, Zimbabwe had the highest decrease (22 percent) in the proportion of total land covered by forest in the region, decreasing from 58 percent in 1990 to 45 percent in 2003.
  • Afforestation programmes being implemented to improve forest cover in 2006 -2007 period, 17 million trees were planted and 200,000 farmers trained on tree planting techniques.
  • Constrained in energy supplies affecting business and households. This has undermined productivity and the competitiveness of the country.
  • Supply of water and sanitation is a challenge. Access to safe water in rural areas has declined from 75 percent in 1999 to 68 percent in 2003. According to ZDHS 2005/06 78 percent of households accessed their water from an improved water source (i.e. piped water, public tap, bore hole, rainwater or protected spring).in recent years, clean water supply and sanitation  in urban areas have been erratic due to resource constraints and this created a challenge of water borne diseases.

Status and Trends

As the economic crisis deepened between 2000 and 2008 a significant proportion of the population was forced to rely more heavily on natural resources for their livelihood. These resources included firewood, bush meat, traditional medicines, and wild fruits and vegetables, and caused biodiversity loss. The government has made efforts to ensure environmental protection in resettled areas through the Integrated Conservation Plan for the land reform programme.

The capacity of state institutions to enforce environmental laws was severely weakened during the crisis period, resulting in illegal occupation of protected forest and wildlife areas as well as other negative environmental practices such as illegal alluvial gold min­ing, diamond mining, accidental and deliberately set bush fires, all of which destroyed both plant and animal biodiversity. The country has done well in phasing out ozone depleting substances (ODS). It reached the target five years ahead of the 2015 deadline set under the Montreal Protocol.

Climate Change
Despite being a low emitter, there is observed global warming in Zimbabwe. A set of climatic extremes show that the monthly high­est daily maximum temperatures for most of the country are on the increase, by about 2ºC per century, and the percentage of days with low temperatures is decreasing at a rate of about 15 days per cen­tury. Assuming that GHG emissions continue along the predicted trajectory, it is predicted that temperatures will rise by between 0.5°C and 2°C by 2030, and 1°C and 3.5°C by 2070. National average rainfall declined by about 5% between 1900 and 2000.

Water and Sanitation
The inability of vulnerable populations to access safe water and basic sanitation has seen frequent diarrheal and cholera out­breaks in the country. The proportion of people in rural areas with access to safe drink­ing water declined from 70% in 1999 to 61% in 2009. Furthermore, more than 65% of all rural water points are non-functional at any given time. Zimbabwe’s extensive rural sanitation programme has also experienced a sharp decline in quality.

With regards to sanitation, in 2009, 69.5% of all rural households had no access to hygienic sanitation facilities. The peri-urban areas rank amongst the worst affected in terms of water and sanitation access and coverage as there is no guiding policy framework.

Major challenges to achieving MDG 7

On the overall policy arena, the major challenge that the country faces to ensuring environmental sustainability is effective imple­mentation of the Environmental Management Act. The Environ­mental Management Agency (EMA) plays a key role in translat­ing the objectives of the Act into reality, but it lacks both human and financial resources. The low level of environmental aware­ness among key law enforcement agencies such as the Judiciary and the Police further hinders both the success of domestic self-financing mechanisms through fines and penalties to replenish the Environmental Fund and halt negative practices. Key policy frameworks such as a national climate change strategy are not in place, making it difficult for the country to engage effectively on climate change. Financial resources for implementing EMAs have mainly come from limited external sources.

The major challenges affecting the provision of clean water and good sanitation include eroded institutional and community ca­pacity at all levels in terms of human, financial, and material re­sources, a weak policy framework, and a weak sector information management and monitoring system. In addition, failure to invest in the routine maintenance of water and sanitation facilities has resulted in deterioration of physical assets and, inevitably, failure to provide a safe and reliable basic level of service.

Requirements for Achieving Goal 7

  • Environmental capacity-strengthening of key law enforcement agencies.
  • Institutional strengthening of the EMA  and the MoENRM for mainstreaming environmental issues, including climate change, across all sectors.
  • Ensuring more robust approaches towards leveraging both domestic and international environmental financing.
  • Fiscal and institutional reforms to accelerate the uptake of renewable and clean energy technologies in households and industry.
  • Adopting public-private partnerships in water, energy, and housing provisioning.
  • Ensuring clear and decisive government leadership in order to safeguard the water and sanitation sector.
  • Prioritising the development of rehabilitation programmes with the objective of restoring the existing water and sanitation infrastructure, accompanied by a large-scale sanitation behaviour change programme.
Brown Bag Dialogue Series - Towards a Green Economy

The landmark Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development provided a unique opportunity for experts, diplomats and policy makers to reflect on the topical issue of the ‘green economy’ in Zimbabwe and in sub-Saharan Africa more generally.

Read more about the move towards a Green Economy in Zimbabwe
Targets for MDG7
  1. Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes; reverse loss of environmental resources
  2. Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss
    • Proportion of land area covered by forest and proportion of species threatened with extinction
    • CO2 emissions, total, per capita and per $1 GDP (PPP)
    • Consumption of ozone-depleting substances
    • Proportion of fish stocks within safe biological limits
    • Proportion of total water resources used
    • Proportion of terrestrial and marine areas protected
  3. Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation
    • Proportion of population using an improved drinking water source
    • Proportion of population using an improved sanitation facility
  4. Achieve significant improvement in lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, by 2020
    • Proportion of urban population living in slums