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Key findings
  • More than half (54%) of Tanzanians consider pollution a serious problem in their communities. o Citizens cite trash disposal (33%), deforestation (33%), pollution of water sources (13%), and human waste management (9%) as the most important environmental issues in their community. o More than eight in 10 respondents (81%) say plastic bags are a major source of pollution in Tanzania.
  • Tanzanians assign the primary responsibility for reducing pollution and keeping communities clean to ordinary citizens (46%) and their local and national governments (35% and 13%, respectively).
  • Almost nine out of 10 citizens (88%) say the government should be doing more to limit pollution and protect the environment, including 74% who want it to do “much more.”
  • Even if environmental-protection policies threatened jobs and incomes, two-thirds (68%) of Tanzanians would want the government to prioritise the environment.
  • More than half (53%) of Tanzanians say the benefits of natural resource extraction, such as jobs and revenue, outweigh negative impacts such as pollution.
  • But almost eight in 10 citizens (78%) say the government should regulate the natural resource extraction industry more tightly in order to reduce its impacts on the environment.

Tanzania is blessed with a wealth of renewable natural resources, including wildlife, fresh  water, forests, and fisheries, that provide livelihoods for its people and drive a dynamic  tourism industry. Prioritising its biodiversity, the country has placed almost one-third of its land  under conservation protection (World Bank, 2019; USAID, 2017, 2023).  

Going back decades, the government has also committed itself to global and regional  agreements to protect endangered species, the ozone layer, wild fauna and flora, forests,  and biological diversity and to fight climate change, domesticating these in a series of  national policies, laws, and strategies. Most recently, a legal ban on the production, sale,  import, and use of plastic bags took effect in 2019 (Feukeng, 2019).  

Yet population growth, urbanisation, and industry leave the country highly vulnerable to a  range of environmental problems, including deforestation, inadequate waste management,  air pollution, loss of biodiversity, and degradation of land and water resources (World Bank,  2019; UNEP, 2023). Mining of the country’s gold, iron ore, diamonds, tanzanite, and other  industrial and fuel minerals contributes jobs and export revenues (International Trade  Administration, 2023), but it also adds pollution to the environmental challenge.  

This dispatch reports on a special survey module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9  questionnaire to explore Tanzanians’ experiences and perceptions of pollution,  environmental governance, and natural resource extraction. 

A majority of Tanzanians see pollution as a serious problem in their communities. Citizens rank  trash disposal and deforestation as their most important environmental issues and consider  plastic bags a major source of pollution in their country. 

Almost unanimously, citizens want more government action to limit pollution and protect the  environment, even at the cost of jobs and incomes. And when it comes to natural resource  extraction, a majority favour tighter regulation of the industry to reduce its impacts on the  environment. 

Derick Msafiri

Derick Msafiri is an intern for REPOA, the Afrobarometer national <br /> partner in Tanzania.