A Review of Current Tanzanian National Environmental Policy

By Maro, Paul S

Introduction The term ‘environment’ commands a very broad meaning. It refers to the physical and biological systems that provide our basic life support, and that contribute to our psychological well-being. It incorporates air, water, land, plant and animal life including human life, the social, economic, cultural, recreational and aesthetic conditions, buildings, technologies, and the direct and indirect impacts of human activities. Generally, ‘policy’ may be thought of as ‘a coherent and agreed statement of how an organisation proposes to focus on its future mission; it sets out the nature of intended actions or inaction, and sets the boundaries within which these will take place’ (Selman 2000, p. 67). Public sector policies will normally express the ways in which legal obligations are to be efficiently discharged, public monies disbursed and permissive powers optimised.

In 1997 Tanzania adopted the National Environment Policy. The objectives of this paper are to assess the rationale, objectives and coverage or content of this environmental policy; to evaluate some of the impacts of its implementation; to examine the relationship of this environmental policy to the Environmental Management Act No. 20 of 2004 (EMA); and to make recommendations on the need to review and update the environmental policy.

The rationale for the 1997 National Environmental Policy was based on a national analysis which had revealed the following environmental problems in need of urgent action:

1 Land degradation reducing the productivity of soils in many parts of the country.

2 Lack of accessible good quality water for both urban and rural inhabitants.

3 Environmental pollution in towns and the countryside affecting the health of many people and lowering the productivity of the environment.

4 Loss of wildlife habitats and biodiversity, threatening the national heritage and creating an uncertain future for the tourist industry.

5 Deterioration of aquatic systems, particularly the productivity of lake, river, coastal and marine waters, which were increasingly being threatened by pollution and poor management.

6 Deforestation, with forest and woodland heritage being reduced year by year through clearance for agriculture, wood fuel and other demands.

The main reasons for the deteriorating state of the national environment were identified as: inadequate land and water management at various management levels; inadequate financial and human resources; inequitable international terms of trade; the vulnerable nature of some local environments; the rapid growth of rural and urban population; inadequate institutional coordination; inadequate monitoring and information systems; inadequate involvement of major stakeholders (e.g. local communities, NCOs, private sector) in addressing environmental problems; and inadequate integration of conservation measures in the planning and development of programmes.

The National Environmental Policy provides the framework for making fundamental changes that are needed to bring environmental considerations into the mainstream of decision-making in Tanzania. The overall objectives are:

1 To ensure sustainability, security and the equitable use of resources for meeting the basic needs of the present and future generations without degrading the environment or risking health or safety.

2 To prevent and control degradation of land, water, vegetation and air which constitute our life support systems.

3 To conserve and enhance our natural and manmade heritage, including the biological diversity of the unique ecosystems of Tanzania.

4 To improve the condition and productivity of degraded areas, including rural and urban settlements, in order that all Tanzanians may live in safe, healthful, productive and aesthetically pleasing surroundings.

5 To raise public awareness and understanding of the essential linkages between environment and development, and to promote individual and community participation in environmental action.

6 To promote international cooperation on the environmental agenda, and expand our participation and contribution to relevant bilateral, sub-regional regional and global organisations and programmes including treaties.

It is important to recognise that the National Environmental Policy provides for cross-sectoral and sectoral policy guidelines, instruments for environmental policy, and the institutional arrangements for environmental management.

Cross-sectoral policies


The environmental policy pursues a proactive policy objective of natural resources conservation oriented towards the reduction of the vulnerability of the poor. sectoral policies and programmes to address poverty eradication have to take due account of the need for sustainable resource exploitation.


The policy objectives on population include the following: literacy programmes with emphasis on linkages with primary environmental care, primary health care, basic shelter, food security, access to secure tenure and infrastructure; the generation of socio-demographic information, and the mitigation of the direct and induced effects of demographic changes on the environment with respect to land, water and ecosystem health; and promoting the critical role of women in population and environmental issues through increased access to education, expanding primary and reproductive health care programmes.


The primary policy objective is the promotion of the use of environmentally sound technologies, that is, technologies that protect the environment, are less polluting, use resources in a sustainable manner, recycle more of their waste products, and handle residue wastes in a more acceptable manner than the technologies for which they are substitutes.


Programmes for the conservation and utilisation of biological diversity are to be pursued to prevent and control the causes of significant loss of biological diversity. Strategic measures shall be put in place for the development of biotechnology to ensure a fair and equitable sharing of the results and benefits arising out of the utilisation by foreign recipients of genetic resources originating from Tanzania.

Public participation and education

Environmental education and awareness-raising programmes are to be undertaken in order to promote informed opinion. Environmental education is to be introduced into primary and secondary school curricula to inculcate values that support responsible environmental care, and discourage attitudes that are incompatible with sustainable ways of life.

Sectoral policies

The National Environmental Policy provides sectoral policy objectives for agriculture, livestock, water and sanitation, health, transport, energy, mining, human settlements, industry, tourism, wildlife, forestry, and fisheries.

Under agriculture, the main objective is to ensure food security and the eradication of rural poverty through the promotion of production systems, technologies and practices that are environmentally sound. Specific policy objectives include: the improvement of land husbandry through soil erosion control and soil fertility improvement; intensification and diversification of agricultural production; strengthening of environmentally sound land use, monitoring, registration and management of agrochemicals; improvement in water use efficiency in irrigation, including control of water logging and salination; promotion of integrated and holistic approaches through land use planning and management.

The main objective of the livestock sector is to stimulate the development of the livestock industry in the country, taking due regard of the environment, and includes the following policy objectives: the improvement and conservation of grazing lands and preservation of feed resources; restoration and protection of grazing lands, and promotion of rotational grazing; and promotion of mechanisms for resolving conflicts among different land use interests.

In the water, sewerage and sanitation sector, the policy objectives include planning and implementation of water resources and other development programmes in an integrated manner and in ways that protect water catchment areas and vegetation cover; promotion of technology for efficient and safe water use, particularly for water and waste water treatment and recycling; institution of appropriate user charges that reflect the full value of water resources; prevention, reduction and control of pollution of the marine and coastal waters.

The policy objectives under urban centres and human settlements include integrated planning and improved management of urban centres and designation of urban land uses based on environmental impact considerations; the decentralisation of urban development through the promotion of intermediate towns and trade centres; and development of gardens, parks, greenbelts and open spaces in urban centres for public use.

The main objective in the energy sector is the sound management of the impacts of energy development and use in order to minimise environmental degradation; and the policy objectives include: minimisation of wood fuel consumption through the development of alternative energy sources and wood fuel energy efficiency; and assessment and control of development and use of energy. For the mining sector the policy objectives cover: management of the overall project cycle of mining (including reclamation and restoration of land after mining) in order to minimise adverse environmental impacts; control of mining discharges to ground and water; control of air pollution from mining areas; and strict control of the use of mercury in mining activities.

The main objective in forestry is the development of sustainable regimes for soil conservation and forest protection, taking into account the close links between desertification, deforestation, fresh water availability, climate change and biological diversity. Policy objectives include: promotion and enforcement of rational exploitation of forest resources accompanied by reforestation and afforestation to meet requirements of domestic consumption and export earnings in a sustainable manner; natural forest with biological diversity value and genetic resources will be conserved; farmers, business communities, NGOs, schools and others will be motivated to embark on tree planting.

Environmental policy instruments and institutional arrangements

The National Environmental Policy provides the following environmental policy instruments: environmental impact assessment – environmental legislation, which was adopted in 2004; economic instruments, mainly market based approaches such as prices; environmental standards and indicators; the precautionary approach; and international cooperation.

The ministry responsible for environment matters is the source of overall policy guidance and advice on the development of strategic environmental vision including formulation, analysis and appraisal of broad environmental policy and goals. The Division of Environment in the Vice President’s Office is the working-level cell of the ministry and undertakes policy analysis, develops policy choices to influence decision-making, coordinates broad-based environmental programmes, plans and projects, and facilitates meaningful involvement of civil society to broaden consensus and reduce insularity.

The National Environment Management Council (NEMC) is the technical branch of the ministry and undertakes enforcement, compliance, review and monitoring of environmental impact assessment. It carries out environmental audits, research, surveys and investigations that will assist in the proper conservation and management of the environment. The EMA (2004) established the national environmental advisory committee made up of senior officials from all ministries to advise the minister of environment, and provided for the establishment of environmental sections in all ministries and environmental committees at regional, district and village levels. The environmental policy recognises the need for cooperation and coordination of sector ministries in environmental work, and also stresses the need for capacity building in the training of environmental experts, and the establishment and strengthening of institutions responsible for systematic monitoring of the state of the environment.

Impacts of the implementation of the National Environmental Policy

To evaluate the implementation of the National Environmental Policy, the following criteria which are typically used in the development of environmental policy will be applied (Envirowise, 2005):

1 A commitment to continual improvement.

2 A commitment to comply with relevant environmental legislation.

3 Education and training of employees in environmental issues and environmental effects of their action.

4 Monitoring of progress and review of environmental performance on a regular basis (annually).

5 The policy is available to all stakeholders.

Tanzania’s environmental policy complies with the first three criteria. There is very strong commitment to conservation and sustainable management of the environment by the government and the majority of Tanzanians. There is also commitment to comply with environmental legislation, especially in the 2004 EMA. Education and training of environmental experts is also a priority, and several public and private institutions are offering various environmental courses, from certificate to degree programmes.

However, the policy has not been widely distributed in the Kiswahili language, which is used by the majority of the implementers, most of whom do not speak English. Now that the EMA has established environment units in all ministries and environmental committees at the regional, district and village levels, the National Environmental Policy has to be made available to all the levels in Kiswahili so that they can play their part in its implementation. As far as criterion (4) above is concerned, there has not been systematic monitoring of progress of implementation of the policy, and no reviews of environmental performance are undertaken annually. There are no published documents/reports on monitoring and reviewing environmental performance.

In spite of the lack of regular monitoring and review of performance, the National Environmental Policy has been the basic reference document for the development of sectoral policies. Examples of such policies and strategies include the Agricultural Policy (1997), Livestock Development Policy (1997), Agricultural sector Development Strategy (2001 ), National Forestry Policy (1998), National Action Programme to Combat Desertification (1999 2005), National Energy Policy (2000), National Water Policy (2001 ), Tanzania Development Vision 2005 (2001) and the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty.

The EMA (2004)

This act seeks to provide the legal and institutional framework for sustainable management of the environment, prevention and control of pollution, environmental quality standards, public participation, and the basis for the implementation of international environmental agreements. The Act sets out the mandates of various actors to undertake enforcement, compliance, review and monitoring of environmental impact assessment, to facilitate public participation in environmental decision-making and to exercise general supervision and coordination matters relating to the environment.

The EMA was adopted almost 10 years after the National Environmental Policy was adopted, and has provided something of an implementation framework for the policy. The National Environmental Policy was developed when Tanzania was just beginning to implement its economic transformation programme, whereas the EMA was developed and adopted at a time when the process of privatisation of economic development was already advanced, and some lessons had been learnt so it is more up to date.


The current National Environmental Policy has not had much impact on environmental conservation and management, as most of the problems discussed above have intensified. There is, therefore, an urgent need to review and update the policy. The review should involve national consultation and discussion, including the participation of the resource users, as well as students, institutions of higher learning, government and environmental experts and development partners. There is also the need to mount environmental campaigns and mass education to sensitise the population on how to care for and nurture the environment that supports all our lives. People should be made aware of the economic value of the goods and services they obtain from the environment, as well as the natural capacity of the environment that should not be exceeded.

The National Environmental Policy is a comprehensive attempt to guide the conservation and management of natural resources and the environment in Tanzania. The impact of its implementation has never been assessed and, until recently, there was no legal instrument to give effect to its implementation. Now there is such an environmental law, but there is also economic transformation, globalisation and climate change which need to be taken into account in the review and updating of the environmental policy.


Envirowise 2005 How to write an environmental policy (http;// www.envirowise.gov.uk/page) Accessed 13 April 2008

Government of Tanzania 1997 National Environmental Policy Vice President’s Office, Dar es Salaam

Government of Tanzania 2004 Environmental Management Act (No. 20) Government Printer, Dar es Salaam

Selman P 2000 Environmental planning 2nd ed Sage Publications, London


Department of Geography, University of Dar es Salaam, PO Box 35049, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

E-mail: [email protected]

This paper was accepted for publication in April 2008

Copyright Royal Geographical Society Jun 2008

(c) 2008 Geographical Journal, The. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

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