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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Zambia

Zambia’s constitution contains various provisions for the protection for the environment. Article 43 reads:

A citizen shall — a. be patriotic to Zambia and promote its development and good image
b. pay taxes and duties lawfully due and owing to the State
c. protect and conserve the environment and utilize natural resources in a sustainable manner
d. maintain a clean and healthy environment Article 255 outlines principles of environmental and natural resources management and development. It reads: “The management and development of Zambia’s environment and natural resources shall be governed by the following principles:
a. natural resources have an environmental, economic, social and cultural value and this shall be reflected in their use
b. the person responsible for polluting or degrading the environment is responsible for paying for the damage done to the environment
c. where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage to the environment, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost effective measures to prevent environmental degradation
d. the conservation and protection of ecologically sensitive areas, habitats, species and other environment shall be done in a sustainable manner
e. respect for the integrity of natural processes and ecological communities
f. benefits accruing from the exploitation and utilization of the environment and natural resources shall be shared equitably amongst the people of Zambia
g. saving of energy and the sustainable use of renewable energy sources shall be promoted
h. reclaiming and rehabilitation of degraded areas and those prone to disasters shall be promoted
i. unfair trade practices in the production, processing, distribution and marketing of natural resources shall be eliminated
j. origin, quality, methods of production, harvesting and processing of natural resources shall be regulated
k. equitable access to environmental resources shall be promoted
l. effective participation of people in the development of relevant policies, plans and programmes
m. access to environmental information to enable people preserve, protect and conserve the environment

Featured Legislation

1915: The Plumage Birds Protection Act was passed. The legislation ensures no person shall export or cause or procure to be exported or have in his possession for the purpose of export from Zambia any plumage of any wild birds shall sell or offer or expose for sale or have in his possession the purpose of sale any plumage of any wild birds. The prohibitions shall not apply to: (a) the plumage of wild birds for the time being excluded from the operation of this Act by statutory notice; (b) the plumage of wild birds in respect of which a permit has been granted under this Act; (c) the plumage of wild birds ordinarily used as articles of diet. The Director of the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and National Parks, may, by statutory notice, exclude any wild bird from the operation of this Act for such period or periods as he may prescribe. (6 sections)

1998: The Zambia Wildlife Act was enacted. It serves as an act to establish the Zambia Wildlife Authority and to define its functions; to provide for the establishment, control and management of National Parks and for the conservation and enhancement of Wildlife ecosystems, biodiversity, and of objects of aesthetic pre historic historical geological, archaeological and scientific interest in National parks; and for the promotion of opportunities for the equitable and sustainable use wildlife and effective management of the wildlife habitat in Game management Areas; to enhance the benefits of Game Management Areas; to provide for the development and implementation of management plans; to provide for the regulation of game ranching; to provide for the licensing, sale, import and export of wild animals and trophies; to provide for the implementation of the convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, the convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat, the convention on Biological Diversity and the Lusaka Agreement on Cooperative Enforcement Operations Directed at illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora; to repeal the National Parks and Wildlife Act, 1991; and to provide for matters connected with or incidental to the foregoing.

2007: The Biosafety Act was approved. This Act provides rules relative to the import, development, export, research, transit, contained use, release or placing on the market of any genetically modified organism whether intended for release into the environment, for use as a pharmaceutical, for food, feed or processing, or a product of a genetically modified organism. The rules intend to ensure that harm by GMOs is prevented to the environment, human or animal health, non-genetically modified crops or biological diversity.

2011: The Water Resources Management Act was ratified. It serves as an act to establish the Water Resources Management Authority and define its functions and powers; provide for the management, development, conservation, protection and preservation of the water resource and its ecosystems; provide for the equitable, reasonable and sustainable utilization of the water resource; ensure the right to draw or take water for domestic and noncommercial purposes, and that the poor and vulnerable members of the society have an adequate and sustainable source of water free from any charges; create an enabling environment for adaptation to climate change; provide for the constitution, functions and composition of catchment councils, sub-catchment councils and water users associations; provide for international and regional cooperation in, and equitable and sustainable utilization of, shared water resources; provide for the domestication and implementation of the basic principles and rules of international law relating to the environment and shared water resources as specified in the treaties, conventions and agreements to which Zambia is a State Party; repeal and replace the Water Act, 1949; and provide for matters connected with, or incidental to, the foregoing. This Act establishes a regulatory and administrative framework for the management, development, conservation, protection and preservation of the water resource in Zambia and provides with respect to water rights and the equitable and sustainable use of water resources and related matters.

2011: The Fisheries Act was tabled, providing for the appointment of the Director of Fisheries and fisheries officers and provide for their powers and functions; promote the sustainable development of fisheries and a precautionary approach in fisheries management, conservation, utilization and development; establish fisheries management areas and fisheries management committees; provide for the regulation of commercial fishing and aquaculture; establish the Fisheries and Aquaculture Development Fund; repeal and replace the Fisheries Act, 1974; and provide for matters connected with, or incidental to, the foregoing.  This Act makes provision with respect to the conservation and management of fish resources of Zambia and the protection of fish. It also establishes the Fisheries and Aquaculture Development Fund and provides with respect to diseases affecting fish, aquaculture and importation and exportation of fish.

2015: The Forests Act was inaugurated, providing for the establishment and declaration of National Forests, Local Forests, joint forest management areas, botanical reserves, private forests and community forests; provide for the participation of local communities, local authorities, traditional institutions, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders in sustainable forest management; provide for the conservation and use of forests and trees for the sustainable management of forests ecosystems and biological diversity; establish the Forest Development Fund; provide for the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention to Combat Desertification in those Countries experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, particularly in Africa and any other relevant international agreement to which Zambia is a party; repeal and replace the Forests Act, 1999; and provide for matters connected with, or incidental to, the foregoing.  This Act concerns the management and conservation of forest resources and, to some extent, the protection of biological diversity and generally the environment in Zambia. It consists of 107 sections divided into 11 Parts: Preliminary (I); Forestry Department (II); Forest Management and Development(III); Forest Management Plans and Conservation Orders (IV); Protected Flora (V); Regulation of Forest Produce (VI); Marking of Timber (VII); The Forest Development Fund (VIII); Enforcement IX); Offences and Penalties (X); General Provisions (X). The Act is completed by one Schedule.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • Forest crime is on the rise in Zambia: the Kavangoâ Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) serves as a hotspot for the illicit trade in rosewood, contributing to a US$ 9.0 billion enterprise. Over the last decade, Zambia has witnessed an uptick in the illegal trade of rosewood, most of which is imported into China. Zambia is the main transit country and according to a team from the Centre for International Forestry Research, corrupt officials have welcomed bribes paid annually on the roads and border points of Zambia at about US$ 1.7 million. Despite various national and international laws and treaties having outlawed the rosewood trade, the illicit trade in Zambia persists, and its scale will increase in the future as China’s timber and forest product imports are expected to increase from an estimated 194 million cubic meters in 2015 to 254 million cubic meters by 2025. Rosewood logging causes problems that go well beyond the removal of rare tree species -for instance, it can dry out forests and leave them vulnerable to fires and desertification. Rosewood is the generic name for various dark-red hardwood species found in tropical regions across the globe and as trees are becoming increasingly scarce, the demand for this species of hardwood is becoming more coveted. China places a huge demand for rosewood logs to make hongmu – antique furniture. Hongmu was used historically by the imperial elite and is now coveted by China’s rising middle class. Supplies of the wood from markets in Latin America and South-East Asia have dwindled in recent years, so Africa has become a key source. Within Africa, Zambia has become one of China’s main rosewood exporters in the past decade. Several African species have already received protection under the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species.

References and Further Reading


Minister of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection, Hon. Mr. Rafael Nakachinda: c/o