Air, water, and waste pollution are major environmental challenges in Tanzania.

In Tanzania, the estimated economic cost of premature deaths attributed to pollution (i.e., ambient and household air pollution, and unsafe water and sanitation) was over $28,700 million ($28,7 billion) in 2013 [1]. This estimate factors in the risks associated with ambient and household air pollution from particulate matter (PM), unsafe water, and unsafe sanitation [1].

In accordance with the World Health Organization's guidelines, the air quality in Tanzania is considered moderately unsafe - the most recent data indicates the country's annual mean concentration of PM2.5 is 29 µg/m3, exceeding the recommended maximum of 10 µg/m3. Available data indicates that Morogoro has consistently high levels of air pollution [2]. In Tanzania, over 3,845 and 22,729 premature deaths were attributable to outdoor and indoor PM air pollution, respectively, in 2013[1].

Tanzania’s industrialization is still in its early stages, however, given the current industrialization drive, there is growing concern of increased pollution if the process is not properly managed.

As the global population grows, countries urbanize, and their economic wealth increases, the amount of municipal solid waste (MSW) generated also increases. In Tanzania, projections suggest a significant increase from current MSW levels. It is estimated that in 2012, Tanzania generated 2,425 metric tons of MSW per day (0.26 kg/capita/day). Furthermore, in comparison with other African countries, Tanzania is among those generating the least e-waste. However, the overall trend of e-waste generation is rising [1].

Moreover, in Tanzania's major towns and cities, solid and liquid wastes are left untreated. As a result, air and water are contaminated with pollutants, a major health hazard for those who live in under-privileged areas. Take Dar es Salaam for example, where few people are connected to a sewage system [3].


Contributors to poor air quality in Tanzania include agricultural processing, the mining, cement, timber, and oil industries, vehicle emissions, and waste burning.  PM is among the most harmful air pollutants. PM is a mixture of extremely small solid particles and liquid droplets that are suspended in the atmosphere. The sources of PM can be natural (dust, forest fires, marine aerosol) as well as anthropogenic (residential wood and charcoal burning, agricultural burning, trash incineration, fossil fuel combustion, vehicle emissions, industrial emissions) [1]. Household air pollution is mainly caused by widespread use of solid biomass fuels (such as charcoal and fuelwood) for cooking. Poor housing conditions, with limited ventilation, and traditional, inefficient cookstoves compound the problem [1].

The main contaminants effecting water quality in Tanzania are the rapid and unplanned growth of urban areas, the domestic wastewater often discarhed directly into streams due to lack of sewerage facilities and the inadequate solid waste management, as well as industrial effluents and farming [1].

Five main industrial sectors were found to account for the highest pollution loads: (i) basic iron and steel; (ii) plastics products; (iii) basic chemicals; (iv) vegetable and animal oils and fats; and (v) cement, lime and plaster [1]. These account for over 90% of PM10 emissions.


Key policies and governance approach

Tanzania has put in place a number of policies, laws, regulations and standards to address the environment and health issues in the country. The first environmental policies concerning also pollution is the National Environmental Policy (1997) which provides a way for integrating the environment, including environmental health, into planning and implementation frameworks. It also specifies the six major environmental problems facing the country. Another milestone of Tanzania’s legislation is the Environmental Management Act No. 20 of 2004 which provides the legal and institutional framework for sustainable management of the environment in line with the National Environment Policy of 1997. The Act outlines principles for management, impact and risk assessment, prevention and control of pollution, waste management, environmental quality standards, public participation, compliance and enforcement [4].

In 2009 the Public Health Act has been approved and deals with the promotion, preservation and maintenance of public health with a view to ensuring the provisions of comprehensive, functional and sustainable public health services to the general public, and provides for other related matters. This Act also prohibits the pollution of water bodies with hazardous waste materials such as chemicals which affect human health and the surrounding environment [4].

Several are the committees dealing with pollution-related topics in the country. The Chemical Emergency Response Committee deliberates and responds to various aspects related to chemicals incidents including chemical accidents;  the Chemicals Management Technical Committee advises the Government on matters related to protection of health and the environment from the adverse effect of chemicals, Substances, preparations or products and processes that are not or less  hazardous to health and the environment; and the registration of chemicals and chemical dealers[4].

Moreover, National Environmental Advisory Committee advises the Minister on matters relating to the protection and management of the environment, make recommendations on degradation of the environment, review environmental standards, guidelines and regulations as well as perform environmental advisor services to the Minister [4].


Successes and remaining challenges  

In Tanzania environmental pollution impacts are often not directly attributed to their source and remain hidden in other statistics. Awareness of the negative impacts of environmental pollution has increased, but significant knowledge gaps in data and information persist about its causes, magnitude, and effects in Tanzania. Accurate and regularly updated data are critical for developing sustainable policies and management solutions. Additional research and systematic data collection on the sources, distribution, dispersion, and health effects of pollution are needed, they constitute the basis from where Tanzania should further build improved management systems [1].

Moreover, More strategic collaboration across government authorities and improved enforcement is needed. The Vice President’s Office (VPO) is the institution responsible for dealing with pollution, through its Division of Environment (DoE), as a crosscutting issue. Other ministries also have direct or indirect competencies related to the environment and human health. Enforcement of the legal provisions related to air pollution, however, is weak. While the 1997 environmental policy framework still applies today, it needs to be updated. Developing a sustainable urban energy strategy for Dar es Salaam (the main charcoal consumer in the country) would provide a useful framework for stakeholders to work together to achieve a more economically, environmentally and socially sustainable energy mix for the city [1].

Tanzania has made significant progress in improving access to drinking water and sanitation services, but a large proportion of the population still has no access to these services[1].

Improving pollution regulations and enforcement today is an early and cost-effective government investment in preventing even higher pollution loads in the medium term. It is easier to have adequate industrial pollution regulations in place before new investments are made, as opposed to trying to get firms to retrofit at a later stage[1].

Moreover, developing an adequate regulatory and management  framework to ensure the effective management of e-waste is important in view of the rapidly increasing use of electronics[1].


Initiatives and Development Plans

The government has signed several global initiatives to reduce air pollution—among others, the Clean Air Initiative of Sub-Saharan Africa— but given the range of issues faced by developing countries, including Tanzania, concrete action to tackle air pollution has so far received limited attention.

Tanzania developed, in 2019, the Health and Pollution Action Plan which basic objective is to help to achieve real action and measureable outcomes for some of the high priority challenges related to indoor and outdoor air pollution, contamination of water, soil pollution and occupational exposure to pollution [4]. In addition to describing the process used to prioritize issues and create the Plan, and describing the pollution challenges and associated health impacts that were identified as priorities through the consultative and analytical process, the Health and Pollution Action Plan includes brief recommended actions, programmes, and projects that would reduce the impacts on public health from priority pollution issues[4].


Goals and Ambitions

The goals of the Mozambique's Health and Pollution Action Plan are to [4]:

  1. Assist governments to identify, evaluate and prioritize existing pollution challenges based on health impacts
  2. Establish pollution as a priority for action within national agencies and development plans
  3. Define and advance concrete interventions to reduce pollution exposures and related illnesses


  • A multipronged approach is needed to curb air pollution.
  • Providing the population with access to sustainable clean water and sanitation services reduces the spread of diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever.
  • While e-waste generation is relatively low in Tanzania in comparison with other African countries, low collection rates and informal disposal points pose significant environmental and health risks.
  • As healthcare waste (HCW) is more likely to cause an infection and/or injury than any other type of waste, and its nature requires very specific collection and disposal practices, its adequate management is critical.
  • Training farmers on safe usage and handling of pesticides can significantly reduce the associated environmental and health risks.
  • Establishing a mine requires clearing land, causing the loss of forests and biodiversity, which in turn affects the local surroundings and communities.