Zambia: Environmental Law Context Report




Country Context Report



A series of extracts and resources compiled by Lois Chisompola, postgraduate student at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, with supervision from Amy Sinclair, Managing Editor of the African Legal Information Institute (AfricanLII).

19 August 2019



1       Sources of environmental law in Zambia.. 1

A      Domestic constitution and legislation.. 1

B       Domestic executive decision-making.. 5

2       Environmental law topics in Zambia.. 6

A      Energy, minerals and extractives. 6

B       Coastal, marine and fisheries. 8

C       Agriculture, plants and forestry. 10

D      Climate change, natural disasters and air quality. 12

E       Wildlife.. 13

F       Protected areas. 13

G      African customary law and rights of indigenous peoples. 14

1       Sources of environmental law in Zambia

A       Domestic constitution and legislation

This is a non-exhaustive list of the most important legislation affecting environmental law issues in Zambia.

Legislation title and URL

Constitution of Zambia ( Amendment)  Act ( No. 2 of 2016)

The Constitution covers : Traditional rights/customary rights, Economic/social/cultural rights, Gender and natural resources, Indigenous peoples, Protection of environment, Sustainable development, Renewable energy, Polluter pays principle, Pollution control, Public participation, Agricultural land, Sustainable use, Right to water, among others.

Environmental Management Act, 2011 (No. 12 of 2011).

The Act covers: Air quality/air pollution, Noise pollution, Radiation, Pollution control, Basic legislation, Institution, Environmental planning, Access-to-information, Biosecurity, Ecosystem preservation, EIA, Environmental audit, Environmental standards, Protected area, Land-use planning, Soil conservation/soil improvement, Soil pollution/quality, Pesticides, Transboundary effects, Waste management, Inland fisheries, Freshwater quality/freshwater pollution, Inland waters, Management/conservation, Biodiversity, Protection of habitats, Wetlands. › ... › Environmental Management Acts

Zambia Wildlife Act 2015(No.14 of 2015).

The Act covers:Land tenure, Mining, Basic legislation, Protected area, National parks, Endangered species, Wild flora,Hunting/capture, Hunting gear/hunting methods, Hunting authorization/permit, Hunting authorization/permit fee, Wildlife products, Biodiversity, Dangerous animal/harmful animal, Reptiles, International agreement-implementation, Enforcement/compliance.

Zambia Wildlife (International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) Regulations, 2007 (S.I. No. 61 of 2007).

The Act covers: Plant production, Management/conservation, Endangered species, Institution, Wild fauna, Wild flora, Wildlife products, International trade, Authorization/permit, Certification, Registration, International agreement-implementation, Ranching/captive breeding, Offences/penalties, Cartilaginous fishes, Protection of species

Forests Act, 2015 (Act No. 4 of 2015)

The Act covers: Soil conservation/soil improvement, Gender and natural resources, Governance, Desertification, International agreement-implementation, Traditional knowledge/indigenous knowledge, Climate change, Basic legislation, Forest management/forest conservation, Forestry protection measures, Ecosystem preservation, Timber extraction/logging, Protected area, Protection forest, Afforestation/reforestation, Public forest, Marking/identification, Institution, Special fund, Classification/declassification, Authorization/permit, Community management, Private forest, Enforcement/compliance, Offences/penalties, Basin/catchment/watershed, Sustainable development, Sustainable use, Biodiversity, Protection of species, Wetlands.

Lands Act, 1995 (Cap. 184)

The Act covers: Land tenure, Traditional rights/customary rights.

Plant Pests and Diseases Act (Cap. 233).

The Act covers: Plant protection, Plant production, Pests/diseases, Planting material/seeds, Post-harvest treatment, Tobacco.

Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act, 2008 (Act No. 10 of 2008).

The Act covers: Mining, Oil, Registration, Institution, Contract/agreement, Environmental planning, Environmental standards, Authorization/permit

Fisheries  Act, 2011 (No. 22 of 2011).

The Act covers: Fishery management and conservation, Fishing area, Institution, Aquaculture, Mariculture, EIA, Policy/planning, Special fund, Protected area

Energy Regulation Act (No. 16 of 1995).

The Act covers: Energy conservation/energy production, Institution, Authorization/permit, Environmental planning.

Water Resources Management Act, 2011 (No. 21 of 2011).

The Act covers: Freshwater resources management, Groundwater, Surface water, Freshwater quality/freshwater pollution, Institution, Access-to-information, Aquaculture, Basin/catchment/watershed, Climate change, Disasters, Effluent waste water/discharge, Enforcement/compliance, Environmental planning, Flood, Monitoring, Protected area, Recreational water use, River basin institution, Water abstraction, Water conservation zone, Water quality standards, Water rights, Water shortage/drought, Water supply, Water users' associations, Waterworks, Well sinking/

Environment Protection and Pollution Control Act, 1990 (Cap. 204).

The Act covers: Pollution control, Air quality/air pollution, Noise pollution, Radiation, Basic legislation, Institution, Fishing authorization, Waste disposal, Hazardous substances, Pesticides, Effluent waste water/discharge, Freshwater quality/freshwater pollution, Inland waters, Registration

Biosafety Act, 2007 (No. 10 of 2007)

The Act covers: Biotechnology, Biosafety, Biosecurity, Traditional knowledge/indigenous knowledge,Plant production, Plant protection, Biodiversity, Liability/compensation, EIA

Mines and Minerals Development Act, 2015 (No. 11 of 2015)as read together with The Mines and Minerals Development (Amendment) Act No. 14 of 2016.

The Act covers EIA, Soil pollution/quality, Soil conservation/soil improvement, Basic legislation, Mining, Exploration, Soil rehabilitation, Freshwater quality/freshwater pollution

Agricultural Lands Act (Cap. 187)

The Act covers land and soil.

Disaster Management Act, 2010 (No. 13 of 2010).

The Act covers: Disasters,Environmental planning, Traditional knowledge/indigenous knowledge.

The Tourism and Hospitality Act 2015 ( No. 13 of 2015)

This Act covers:  environmental management and protection and empowerment of local communities; heritage, energy, forestry, fisheries, wildlife and water resource management, among others.

B       Domestic executive decision-making

1.   Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and Environmental Protection[1]

·    Forestry Department

·    Climate Change and Natural Resources Management

2.   Ministry of Tourism and Arts[2]

3.   Ministry of Agriculture[3]

4.   Ministry of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection (MWDSEP)[4]

·    Department of Water Resources Development

·    Department of Environmental Management

5.   Ministry of Commerce Trade and Industry[5]

6.   Ministry of National Development Planning[6]

7.   Ministry of Finance[7]

8.   Ministry of Energy and Water Development[8]

9.   Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock[9]

10. Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs[10]

11. Ministry of Higher Education[11]

12. The Water Resources Management Authority[12]

2       Environmental law topics in Zambia

A       Energy, minerals and extractives

The Minerals Development Policy of 2013[13] acknowledges that exploration and mining activities always have a negative impact on safety, health and environment of communities which in turn affects the potential for long-term sustainable development. The Policy therefore seeks to ensure compliance with environmental regulations, maintenance of the Environmental Protection Fund and the development of environmental assessment processes. Of particular significance is the requirement that mining in protected areas will only be allowed when rehabilitation is guaranteed.  Zambia’s mining activity is large-scale copper mining while the production, processing and export of other minerals remain underdeveloped. However, mining activities conducted for aquamarine, tourmaline and red garnets in certain protected areas have had negative effects on wildlife species and their habitats. Although mining licenses can be granted as long as an EIA is carried out and approved by the Zambia Environmental Management Agency, some small-scale mines are carrying out activities without licenses.

Under the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP), the emphasis is on broadening the range of minerals to cover non-traditional mining of gemstones, gold and industrial minerals as well as promotion of value addition to mining products and include energy and material efficiency strategies to increase productivity and reduce environmental pollution. In relation to biodiversity conservation, the Mines and Minerals Development Act does not provide for the mining companies to fund biodiversity conservation. There are no guidelines in the corporate social responsibility stipulating that the mining companies should finance biodiversity conservation activities. Most of the mining companies involved in biodiversity conservation base their funding on their own company’s greening initiatives or to stabilise the surface that has potential to affect the underground mining activities.

The 7NDP indicates that energy plays a key role in facilitating activity in all sectors of the economy. Zambia is endowed with a range of energy resources, particularly woodlands and forests, water, coal and renewable sources, such as geothermal, wind and solar energy and has the potential to generate about 6,000 megawatts (MW).  The Plan states that the goal is to ensure universal access to clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy at the lowest cost, consistent with national development aspirations. According to the 7NDP, this strategy aims at promoting the development and use of renewable and alternative energy sources, such as solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and nuclear. In addition, efforts will be made to develop a comprehensive national energy strategy including a master plan for sustainable alternatives to charcoal and other household energy needs.The National Energy Policy of Zambia was adopted in 2008 with the objective to remove barriers to the development of renewable energy capacity in the country.[14] It is aimed at the diversification of the country's energy mix and  creation of conditions that ensure availability of adequate supply of energy from various sources which are dependable at lowest economic, financial, social and environmental costs consistent with national development goals. Currently, the Ministry of Energy and Water Development (MMEWD) with the support of the World Bank and Icelandic International Development Agency (ICEIDA) are engaged in a geothermal development support program for at least 80 hot springs.[15] Currently, Zambia is also in the process of wind resource and solar mapping.

Ministry of National Development Planning, Seventh National Development Plan (2017 to 2021).[16]

B       Coastal, marine and fisheries

Zambia’s National Water Policy aims at “increasing accessibility to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities for the rural population of Zambia” so as to achieve the overall national goal of “universal access to safe, adequate and reliable water supply and sanitation services”. However, some challenges to achieving this goal include the illegal abstraction of water and an unintegrated management of water catchments. The Water Resources Management Authority (WARMA) was established with the Water Resources Management Act No. 21 of 2011. Its main purpose is to serve as the regulatory body for the management and development of water resources in the whole country and ensure equal access to water for the various stakeholders. Based on the principles of Integrated Water Resources Management[17], WARMA also take gender and climate change dimensions into account to perform its functions.[18] Pollution often has lagged effects on species diversity. However, effluent from the mines discharged into the Kafue river system has been reported to negatively affect the diversity of butterflies, dragonflies and other benthonic invertebrates as a result of elevated levels of redox, electrical conductivity and turbidity. The highest fish species richness is found in Lake Tanganyika, estimated to have over 200 species of fish, of which over 70% are endemic to the lake. This fishery needs special conservation attention, especially in view of the fact that it is a transboundary water body shared by four riparian countries.[19]

Zambia has launched the Lake Tanganyika Integrated Management Project to promote sustainable management of the lake and natural resources in the area. In relation to fisheries, ome of the main challenges in general include: lack of incentive for aquaculture development; unsustainable utilisation/illegal offtake during the fish ban period & in fish breeding areas; population increase; climate change and variability; invasive species; pollution and inadequate resources. Other threats to aquatic systems and fish include habitat modification due to the damming of rivers, among other causes. They are also threatened by invasive alien species (water hyacinth, Kariba weed, carpet weed) and poor aquaculture practices.[20] The Fisheries Policy falls within the draft National Agricultural Policy 2001-2010. The policy aims to increase fish production and promote sustainable utilization of fishery resources in order to contribute to the economy through generation of employment, income, and improved availability of fish. The proposed policy encourages sustainable fisheries management, and stakeholder participation (especially the participation of local communities) in the capture of fishery and aquaculture. In general terms the policy would therefore seem to support the objectives of a National Policy on Environment.

Zambia’s main interest in the implementation of the SADC Protocol on Transboundary Water Resources is managing potential constraints on water-related development, developing hydropower (national and bilateral with Zimbabwe, though Mozambique is consulted) and irrigation (national) and supporting regional integration (it has been suggested that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, overruled the Water Ministry in relation to the latter’s reluctance to join the Zambezi Commission). In terms of its participation in the SADC water agenda, Zambia actively pursues its interests as the primary riparian in the Zambezi.  Zambia is part of the Zambezi Watercourse Commission whose mandate in theory, includies collection, evaluation and dissemination of data, promoting, supporting, coordinating and harmonising management and development of the water resources, promoting the harmonisation of national policies. The 7NDP indicates that during the Plan period, management of local and trans-boundary aquifers with riparian states will be promoted to ensure regional integration and water security in the broader framework of River Basin Water Management, utilising local and international financing initiatives.

Secretariat, The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity Zambia Country Profile, February 2019.[21]

C       Agriculture, plants and forestry

A number of timber species are known to be locally threatened due to overexploitation that has caused mature trees to become rare. This is in spite of declaring some of these species as protected or reserved. Currently, seventeen species of trees are reserved under the Forest Law and can therefore only be cut under license although in practice this is difficult to enforce. The Integrated Land Use Assessments phase two (ILUA II) estimated that Zambia is losing between 79,000 to 276,000 ha of forests annually with a weighted average of 0.6% of total land per annum[22] Forest reserves are today significantly threatened by encroachment through cultivation and settlement. In the North-Western Province, this process is driven mostly by mining, while Northern Zambia has lost much of its primary cover to shifting cultivation. In the east, central and southern parts of Zambia, conversion of forest land to permanent crop agriculture is the main driver of loss. Bush fires, overexploitation of timber trees, invasive alien plant species are other contributing factors.[23] In summary, some of the main challenges to forestry in Zambia include: unsustainable consumption forestry products; agriculture expansion; land use change; unsustainable utilisation/illegal offtake; mining & infrastructure development; agriculture expansion; encroachment; wildfires; and poor governance.

The 7NDP (2017-2021) aims to contribute to the achievement of the green growth objectives set out in the Vision 2030. The green growth is taken to be “inclusive development that makes sustainable and equitable use of Zambia’s natural resources within ecological limits”[24]Licensed exploitation of forest products is allowed in production forests while protection forests are intended for the protection of water catchments, biodiversity and cultural values. In addition to forest reserves, there are also 59 Botanical Reserves which are located either within or outside forest reserves.[25]Under the 7NDP, a programme will be set up, financed through the Environmental Protection Fund and will be invested into productive jobs for environmental restoration, notably reforestation. Forests are subjected to various disturbances such as fires, drought, diseases, and climatic events that influence the composition, structure and functions. Despite these stress factors, the majority (92.7%) of the trees in forests were found to be in good health. This is a positive indicator of the potential for forests to support sustainable development in the country. This status implies that Zambia’s forest ecosystem has the potential to continue supplying forest goods and services for now, and should therefore be factored into forestry planning at national and provincial levels notwithstanding the high rates of deforestation.[26] Since its first NBSAP in 1999, Zambia has formalised a National Tree Planting Programme and developed a Forest Policy in 2014. 

Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, United Nations Convention on Biodiversity Fifth National Report, June 2015.[27]

D       Climate change, natural disasters and air quality

Rising temperatures are foreseen to negatively affect both crop and livestock productivity and raising the need for careful consideration for agro-biodiversity conservation for drought resistant genetic resources to withstand the rise in temperatures and associated diseases and pests burdens that are likely to occur as a result. Studies have also shown that Zambia’s fish stocks are in danger. Water levels are predicted to decline in rivers and lakes due to increased evaporation induced by rising temperatures and reduced precipitation, consequently affecting fish productivity and the fishing industry. Some fish species such as the breams and sardines, which are the most vulnerable ones and yet the most sought after, might not survive the environmental change. Some communities also depend on wildlife as a source of nutrition. However, change in rainfall frequencies is projected to alter the migrating behaviours of species such as puku, lechwe and waterbuck thus impacting negatively on local communities.

The Environmental Management Act does not provide for regulations to ring fence the money from Carbon tax. It is difficult to track the money collected for Carbon taxes, currently collected by the Road Transport and Safety Agency as inland tax revenue and by the Zambia Revenue Authority that collects it at importation or entry point. The money goes into the consolidated account and some of it may be used for non-carbon sequestration activities. It is proposed that fiscal revenue derived from environmental or biodiversity fiscal measures should have a separate account earmarked to fund environmental or biodiversity conservation projects only.[28]

A cursory review of achievements towards the set targets under the first NBSAP shows very weak direct results. Most of the actions taken could broadly be classified as means rather than ends in meeting the set targets. Under the Southern African Development Community (SADC) policy framework agreement, Zambia has developed a country status report that provides air quality statistics.[29]

Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, United Nations Convention on Biodiversity Fifth National Report, June 2015.[30]

E        Wildlife

The Seventh National Development Plan indicates that its focus will be on restocking of national parks whose wildlife populations have declined to levels where safari and photographic tourism is not viable. Threats to national parks, game management areas and mammals include human encroachment and illegal wildlife use, such as the poaching of large mammals for the bushmeat market. The Government will also strengthen the capacity of the Department of National Parks and partner with the private sector and communities to protect wildlife. Since the Fourth National Report the creation of a new Lusaka National Park brings the total number of national parks to 20. The park is stocked with 827 animals which comprise nine different species.[31]Further, the number of Game Management Areas (GMAs) rose from 33 to 36 by 2014.  Zambia has Implemented the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Area (KAZA) to protect wildlife migratory corridors and populations in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Ministry of National Development Planning, Seventh National Development Plan (2017 to 2021).[32]

F        Protected areas

The network of statutory protected areas (PA) in Zambia covers about 40% of the total surface of area of the country and comprises National Forests, Local Forests, National Parks, Game Management Areas, Bird and Wildlife Sanctuaries and Heritage Sites and some private and community game ranches whose coverage is not fully known. These PA categories, which largely conform to the IUCN classification, have a critical role in the protection of biodiversity and the physical environment of Zambia.[33] Forests, agro-ecosystems and wetlands are the most important eco-system to the national economy and rural livelihoods. Biodiversity conservation to date has been has been undertaken through the management of the existing protected areas system and promotion of sustainable utilization of natural resources in open areas. Furthermore, mining activities conducted for aquamarine, tourmaline and red garnets in certain protected areas has had a negative effects on wildlife and their habitats. The Mining Policy currently provides that mining will only be permitted in protected areas where rehabilitation is possible. Although mining licenses can be granted as long as an EIA is carried out an approved by the Zambia Environmental Management Agency, some small-scale mines are carrying out activities without licenses. Additional threats are wildfires, diseases and pesticides. The Fifth National Report indicates that under the 1999 NBSAP Zambia undertook reclassification of Zambia’s PA system which identified gaps in species representation in the wildlife protected areas and recommended for additional types of protected areas (e.g community parks, community protected forest areas). The establishment of the Simalaha Community Conservancy and the Lusaka National Park have since followed.

Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, United Nations Convention on Biodiversity Fifth National Report, June 2015.[34]

G       African customary law and rights of indigenous peoples

Zambia’s rich biodiversity is scattered in customary or traditionally managed areas, protected areas, in situ conservation areas and agricultural landscapes.  Game Management Areas (GMAs) are protected areas in communally owned lands (i.e., customary or traditional lands) that are used primarily for the sustainable utilization of wildlife resources, through regulated hunting and/or non-consumptive tourism concessions, for the benefit of the nation, local communities and the wildlife resource. Zambia’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP-2) derived from the global conservation goals, the Aichi target. The NBSAP-2 identifies the Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs as a main stakeholder in the protection of biodiversity with its main interests being land administration, sustainable natural resource management and  community rights. Zambia is presently embarking on the involvement of rural communities in the conservation of biodiversity. The creation of community parks such as Simalaha Community Conservancy[35]in Mwandi District, Western Province is one such example. 

Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, Zambia’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP-2) (2015 -2025).[36]

[13] Ministry of Mines, Energy and Water Development, Mineral Resources Development Policy, July 2013 available at

[15] Lufunda Muzeya, Energy Policy in Zambia 24 July 2015 availabe at accessed on 4 August 2019.

[16] Available at accessed on 2 August 2019.

[17] Water is a key driver of economic and social development while it also has a basic function in maintaining the integrity of the natural environment. However water is only one of a number of vital natural resources and it is imperative that water issues are not considered in isolation. Managers, whether in the government or private sectors, have to make difficult decisions on water allocation. More and more they have to apportion diminishing supplies between ever-increasing demands. Drivers such as demographic and climatic changes further increase the stress on water resources. The traditional fragmented approach is no longer viable and a more holistic approach to water management is essential. This is the rationale for the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) approach that has now been accepted internationally as the way forward for efficient, equitable and sustainable development and management of the world's limited water resources and for coping with conflicting demands. United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) Internationa Decade for Action ‘WATER FOR LIFE’ 2005 to 2015 available at accessed on 4 August 2019.

[18] According to the Water Resources Management Authority, water is a basic human need and as such domestic and non-commercial needs shall enjoy first priority on the allocation of use. The environment is a water user and shall enjoy second priority of allocation. There shall be equity between all genders in accessing water resources. The Water Resources Management Authority available at accessed on 5 August 2019.

[19] The Secretariat, Convention on Biological Diversity Zambia County Profile accessed on 2 August 2019.

[20] Ibid.

[22] Jacob Mwitwa, Roselyne Mwila and Bruno Mweemba, Policy and Institutional Review for biodiversity conservation in ZambiaPolicy Brief number 1 February 2018,Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN)-Zambia available at accessed on 4 August 2019.

[23] The Secretariat, Convention on Biological Diversity Zambia County Profile accessed on 4 August 2019.

[24] Banda, T and S. Bass. Inclusive green growth in Zambia. Scoping the needs and potentials. Country Report. February 2014. IIED. London as cited in the Fifth National Report. June 2015 available at accessed on 4 August 2019.

[25] Ibid.

[26] The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Forestry Department, Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, Integrated Land Use Assessment II Report for Zambia (2011 to 2016), December 2016 available at accessed on 4 August 2019.

[27] Available at accessed on 4 August 2019.

[28]Jacob Mwitwa, Roselyne Mwila and Bruno Mweemba,  Policy and Institutional Review for biodiversity conservation in Zambia, Policy Brief number 1 February 2018 available at accessed on 4 August 2019.

[29]United Nations Environment Programme, Global Environmental Outlook Report GEO- 6: Regional Assessment for Africa, 2016 available at accessed on 4 August 2019.

[30] Available at accessed on 4 August 2019.

[31] Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity Fifth National Report, June 2015 available at accessed on 4 August 2019.

[32] Available at accessed on 2 August 2019.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Available at accessed on 4 August 2019.

[35] Mava Foundation pour la nature, Empowering Zambia’s First Community Conservancy, 24 January 2019 available at accessed on 5 August 2019.

[36] Available at accessed on 4 August 2019.