Mozambique: Mozambicans Call for Tighter Governmental Regulations to Protect the Environment

The port of Pemba, in Cabo Delgado, in northern Mozambique (file photo).
6 November 2023
press release

Majority of citizens consider pollution a serious problem in their communities.

Key findings

  • A majority (56%) of Mozambicans consider pollution a "somewhat serious" or "very serious" problem in their communities. o Citizens cite deforestation (23%), water pollution (20%), and trash disposal (17%) the most important environmental problems in their communities. o A majority (58%) see plastic bags as a major contributor to pollution in Mozambique.
  • Almost four in 10 respondents (38%) say ordinary citizens have the primary responsibility for reducing pollution and maintaining cleanliness in their communities, while about the same proportion assign this responsibility to the national (20%) or local (20%) government.
  • Only 39% of Mozambicans think their government is doing a good job of protecting the environment, while 48% disagree.
  • A majority (56%) say the government should intensify its efforts to limit pollution and protect the environment.
  • However, if environmental protection clashes with economic development, Mozambicans are divided in their views: 42% say the government should focus on creating jobs and increasing incomes, while 44% want it to prioritise protecting the environment.
  • Only one-third (33%) of citizens think that the benefits of natural resource extraction, such as jobs and revenue, outweigh costs such as pollution.
  • A majority (57%) say the government should regulate the natural resource extraction industry more tightly to reduce its detrimental effects on the environment.

Delayed by the country's long civil war, resource extraction in Mozambique gained traction after the 1992 peace accords and has experienced notable growth in the past decade. Mozambique is expected to emerge as the third-largest global exporter of natural gas (United Nations Environment Programme, 2019). Coal, iron ore, tantalite, gold, bauxite, and graphite also form part of the wealth of natural resources that have propelled the mining sector's share of gross domestic product from 1.2% in 2010 to almost 10% in 2020 (Kamer, 2023; Britannica, 2023; World Bank, 2023). The number of people employed in the mining sector increased from about 49,000 in 2010 to nearly 71,000 in 2019 (Kamer, 2022).

While critical to Mozambique's economic development, the mining sector also joins agriculture, industry, population growth, and urbanisation in contributing to growing environmental problems such as air and water pollution, deforestation, and the management of solid and human waste (United Nations Environment Programme, 2023; Mutatisse et al., 2022; Global Water Partnership, 2022).

In its national planning and strategies, including the National Development Strategy and the Green Economy Action Plan, the government has prioritised "green growth" through sustainable infrastructure, efficient and sustainable use of resources, and strengthened resilience and adaptability (African Development Bank, 2015; Republic of Mozambique, 2014). Specific challenges are targeted through programmes such as the Innovative, Clean, Resilient, and Participatory Cities in Mozambique project (Wehubit Knowledge Exchange Network, 2023) and the Programme for Sustainable Waste Management (Government of Mozambique, 2021).

This dispatch reports on a special survey module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9 questionnaire that explores citizens' experiences and perceptions of pollution, environmental governance, and natural resource extraction.

Findings show that a majority of Mozambicans view pollution as a serious problem in their communities. While many citizens consider it their personal responsibility to limit pollution, a majority say the government should increase its efforts to protect the environment.

Mozambicans hold mixed perceptions of the benefits and costs of natural resource extraction and say the government should regulate the industry more tightly to reduce its negative environmental impacts.

Marcelline Amouzou Marcelline Amouzou is a PhD student in political science at the University of Florida.

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