Water pollution in LICs - the case of Zambia

Water supply in LICs is a serious concern.  Many people live in poverty, leading to what geographers call “economic water scarcity”.  This means they can’t afford to pay for clean water.  People are forced to collect whatever water they can find, and that often means drinking dirty or contaminated water.

Zambia is a country in southern Africa.  The average income per capita is only about £650 per person per year.  There is a region in Zambia known as the “Copperbelt”.  Many people scratch a living from mines.  Such mines are often run by foreign companies, who bring in foreign managers to run the operation.

There are many incidents of accidental spillages of chemicals from the mining process ending up in water supplies relied on by Zambians.  There are also recorded instances of Zambians being forced to work, standing in contaminated rivers with very little protective clothing - at best they have leaky rubber boots and at worst they go barefoot.


Mopani Copper Mine, which has mining operations in Mufulira town, near the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo, accidentally discharged polluted water in 2008, after a pump went wrong and failed to purify it. 

Nearly 1,000 residents visited local clinics, complaining of abdominal pains, severe diarrhoea and vomiting. No fatalities were recorded, but the widespread poisoning prompted residents to take to the streets in protest and police were called in to calm the demonstrators.

Although Mopani Copper Mine - owned jointly by companies from Canada, Switzerland and the Zambian government - said that the failure to purify the water as an accident, others have accused them of negligence.

In 2006, Zambia's biggest mining company, Konkola Copper Mine, owned by London-listed Vedanta Resources, caused widespread water pollution when acidic waste water entered the Kafue River, the main source of water of about 2 million people in the area.

Hundreds of people in Chingola fell sick after eating fish poisoned by the polluted water and more than 50 local farmers have taken legal action demanding compensation from the mining company because their crops withered and died after being irrigated with water from the river.