Zimbabwe is subject to major types of pollution namely air, water and noise pollution [1].

In accordance with the World Health Organization's guidelines, the air quality in Zimbabwe is considered moderately unsafe. Most recent data indicate the country's annual mean concentration of PM2.5 is almost double the recommended maximum of 10 µg/m3 [2]. Respiratory problems, lung cancer and tuberculosis have been experienced in various settlements including Birchenough Bridge Growth Point, Chiredzi, Kwekwe, Masvingo and Triangle [3]. According to UNEP (2015), air pollution from indoor sources is the single largest contributor to the negative health effects of air pollution, causing an estimated 3,800 premature deaths every year [4].

Water pollution is a major environmental concern in both urban and rural areas. In urban areas discharge of raw sewage into municipal water supplies has resulted in water borne diseases such as cholera, dysentery and typhoid. A cholera outbreak claimed more than 4,000 lives in Zimbabwe between August 2008 and July 2009 [1]. Many chemical residues, such as PCBs, DDT, lead, cyanide, mercury, and cadmium, also end up in water sources in Zimbabwe and are known to pose serious long-term dangers including cancer and nervous system disorders [5]. For instance, a recent study found levels of heavy metals (lead and cadmium) which exceeded the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) safety guidelines in water from the Manyame and Nyatsime rivers [6].

Waste Management has emerged as one of the greatest challenges facing Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe. The volume of waste being generated continues to increase at a faster rate than the ability of the city authorities to improve on the financial and technical resources needed to parallel this growth [7]. In 2016, Zimbabwe generated at least 1.9 million tonnes of Municipal solid waste (MSW) from residential, commercial and industrial areas, according to EMA. Harare City alone generated 371,697 tonnes of MSW, 90% of which was estimated to be either recyclable or re-usable. Of this waste, 49% is formally collected for disposal, 13.6% is recycled, 4.1% is discarded indiscriminately in the environment, while 37.6% is either burnt or buried at-source. According to surveys conducted by the EMA in 2016 and 2017, MSW collection in Harare fell from 52% in 2011 to 48.7% in 2016. This led to a rapid accumulation of waste awaiting collection in most parts of the city [8].

The non-provision of bins and irregular collection of waste in Zimbabwe has led to an increase in illegal dumpsites at undesignated sites in both high and low density suburbs in the country. These dumpsites pose environmental and health hazards and are also a source of bad odours and look unsightly. Additionally, most towns and cities in Zimbabwe lack properly designed dumpsites. Landfills, without leachate collection and impermeable liners are the norm. Leachate produced from decomposing waste percolate into the soil and contaminate surface and ground water sources. They are also a source of methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Most dumpsites are poorly located. Some of them are near residential and industrial areas, alongside streams with a potential of contaminating the water [1].

In recent times the amount of electronic waste (e-waste) has also increased. This kind of waste is posing a serious challenge in disposal as some components contain non-biodegradable hazardous substances such as mercury and lead [1].


Air pollution in Zimbabwe is increasing due to industries, poor waste management and transportation. Fertilizer manufacturing companies are also contributing to nitrous oxide emissions into the atmosphere. Other sources of air pollution include veld fires, dust raised by graders in mining areas, cement manufacturing companies and burning of fossil fuels in thermal power stations. Indoor air pollution is also prevalent in rural areas because of open fire biomass burning for cooking, lighting and heating [1].

The main sources of water pollution are the discharge of untreated or partially treated industrial, mining, municipal, domestic waste and washing of agricultural chemicals into water bodies [1].

The main drivers of waste management issues in Zimbabwe include population growth, urbanization, GDP, unsustainable consumption, and poor waste management practices [9].


Key policies and governance approach

Air pollution in Zimbabwe is regulated under the Environmental Management Act of 2002 and the Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act of 1971 [4]. The Air Pollution Control Regulations Statutory Instrument 72 of 2009 of the Environmental Management Act gives effect to the air quality and emission standards established by the Act [10]. There are 8 air pollution monitoring stations in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has also established the Air Pollution Control Unit (APCU) for Harare [1].

There are a number of legal frameworks that regulate water quality such as the Water Act (Chapter 20:22), the Water (Waste and Effluent Disposal) Regulations (S.1 274/2000), the Public Health Act (Chapter 15:09) and the Environmental Management Act (Chapter 20:27) as well as by-laws passed by local authorities [1].

The main policies and strategies in place relating to waste management include the National Climate Policy, National Climate Change Response Strategy, National Environmental Policy and Strategies, and the Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan [9]. The City of Harare also recently held a workshop to finalize the Harare City Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan [11]. In addition, a number of Statutory Instruments are in place to regulate waste management in the country. These include Effluent and Solid Waste Disposal Regulations, Statutory Instrument No. 6 of 2007, and the Hazardous Waste Management Regulations, Statutory Instrument No. 10 of 2007 [1].

The Zimbabwe National Policy for Information and Communication Technology 2016-2020 recognizes that the rapid growth in electronic waste (e-waste) volumes is a serious threat to the environment and proposes the development of a framework for e-waste management that will incorporate the establishment of recycling facilities and raising awareness about safe and timely disposal of obsolete electric and electronic equipment [12].


Successes and remaining challenges

Significant progress has been made in improving the policy and regulatory framework for solid waste management, improving air quality, and addressing water pollution. However, implementation has been challenging [13], mainly due to financial constraints [1], [13].

Zimbabwe’s Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and local authorities lack the human and financial resources and capacity to adequately monitor and protect the environment [12], [13]. Not enough funding has been made available for human capacity building in monitoring and control of pollution and assessment. Further, the investment in infrastructure and equipment for pollution monitoring and prevention – especially the purchase and maintenance of equipment – has been inadequate [12]. As a result, the country is unable to effectively monitor pollution, and, therefore, it remains difficult to confidently assess to what extent the objectives of policies are being achieved as well as the extent to which the policies are being implemented and enforced. 

Regarding waste management, it is very clear that the management of waste is an expensive operation and is becoming increasingly costly as a consequence of rapid population growth in urban areas. Overlapping institutional arrangements, poor local revenue collection, poor relationships among councillors, citizens, the private sector, NGOs, and lack of accountability and transparency have all contributed to poor urban governance that has manifested itself in poor waste management [7].


Initiatives and Development Plans

To promote sustainable environmental management and waste disposal, the country launched the national clean-up campaign under the theme ‘Zero Tolerance to Litter – My Environment’ on the 5th of December 2018. The first Friday of each calendar month has been officially declared the National Environment Cleaning Day. The objectives of the clean-up campaigns are to ensure the environment is safe, clean and healthy, ensure environmental sustainability, promote environmental awareness, restore community pride, promote local trade and tourism, restore wildlife habitats, engage communities in long-term environmental initiatives and to eradicate diseases, such as cholera and typhoid [9].


[3], [6], [12], [13]

  • Institutions conducting environmental monitoring have generally struggled to buy and maintain equipment, and in many instances the equipment is broken or obsolete. It will be necessary to invest in upgrading of laboratory equipment of institutions such as EMA, ZINWA and universities.
  • Training in monitoring and control of pollution in institutions such as EMA is also needed.
  • Educational awareness campaigns on pollution directed at members of the public.
  • The government of Zimbabwe should enforce regulations regarding discharge of mining and industrial effluent in rivers through strict fines to ensure adherence to the protection of river water.
  • Adjust the laws to increase the fines and penalties for polluters.
  • Develop cleaner sources of energy such as solar, wind and hydro-electricity power plants.
  • Promote the 3 Rs of waste management — Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
  • Improve access to clean fuels for cooking.

[1] Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, Government of Zimbabwe (2016). Zimbabwe Third National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

[2] IAMAT (2020). [Online]. Available:


[4] UNEP (2015). Zimbabwe Air Quality Policies.

[5] World Bank (2014). Rapid Assessment, Identification, and Characterization of Water Pollution and Source Degradation in Zimbabwe.

[6] Tibugari, H., Mafere, G., Dube, S., Chakavarika, M., Mandumbu, R., Musara, J.P., Mapuranga, R., Gumbo, T., Banda, A., Mathema, N. and Goche, T., (2020. Worrying cadmium and lead levels in a commonly cultivated vegetable irrigated with river water in Zimbabwe. Cogent Biology6(1), p.1802814.

[7] Tsiko, Rodney & Togarepi, Sydney. (2012). A Situational Analysis of Waste Management in Harare, Zimbabwe. American Journal of Science. 8(4). 692-706.

[8] Makarichi, L., Kan, R., Jutidamrongphan, W. and Techato, K.A., 2019. Suitability of municipal solid waste in African cities for thermochemical waste-to-energy conversion: The case of Harare Metropolitan City, ZimbabweWaste Management & Research37(1), pp.83-94.

[9] Government of Zimbabwe (2021). Zimbabwe’s Second Voluntary National Review (VNR)

[10] N.E Chishakwe (2018). GLOBAL FUEL ECONOMY INITIATIVE Legislation and Regulations Affecting Motor Vehicle Use in Zimbabwe.

[11] Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe (2021). City of Harare Finalizes Solid Waste Management Plan. [Online]. Available:

[12] MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY, REPUBLIC OF ZIMBABWE (2019). Zimbabwe's Sixth National Report to the Convention on Biodiversity.

[13] Jeffrey Moyo (2021). Rising pollution poses environmental challenges to Zimbabwe. [Online]. Available: