Harare Plans to Address Deteriorating Environmental Conditions Through Phytoremediation, Awareness Campaigns, and Sustainable Municipality Growth


Alexandra Skinner


Harare City Council
Community Size
Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT)
In Progress
Case Type
Partnership Stories
Focus Areas
Climate Change Adaptation
Sustainable Development Goals
11 Sustainable Cities and Communities

The city of Harare, Zimbabwe has experienced a steady deterioration of environmental conditions. The city’s water has become contaminated with organic pollutants leading to higher nitrate and phosphate levels causing fish deaths. The situation seems to be made worse by water treatment challenges despite large efforts to upgrade the Morton Jeoffre water treatment plant. A large Hyacinth plant infestation has affected water bodies for the past two decades and contributed to high levels of organic matter in the water. 

Surrounding streams have also been heavily polluted due to a discharge of raw sewage from nearby municipal facilities indicating issues of solid waste disposal. Because of ongoing water scarcity issues, some of this infested water is used for domestic purposes leading to outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera. Many of these challenges come from various sources including the urban agriculture industry, the colonization of catchment areas by squatters, and chemicals used for commercial farms. Climate change is exacerbating these issues as rising temperatures make organic pollution in waterways worse and contribute greatly to water scarcity issues. 

To address these issues, the Harare City Council and Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) are forming an EPIC partnership to tackle these environmental concerns. CUT will work with the municipality to identify serious environmental challenges caused by climate change. Here, pollution has been a major concern for decades and progress will require university members to share information with municipalities under this specific partnership. In this project, CUT and Harare city will implement projects designed to strengthen municipal sustainable growth such as compost unit design, organizing training for municipal staff, championing awareness campaigns for the local community, and taking part in phytoremediation- a nature-based approach that uses plants to clean up contaminated environments. 

University students taking corresponding courses will be called upon to collect data and conduct write-ups on projects about conservation and sustainable development, environmental ecotoxicology, and environmental impact assessment. The projects will be covered by the EPIC NSF Consultancy and carried out in the Harare jurisdiction area between August 2023 and July 2024 focusing on a combination of fieldwork, municipality training, and awareness campaigns. 

In terms of fieldwork, phytoremediation sites will be established around areas in the city where there is a large amount of municipal pollution running into surrounding streams. Appropriate landscaping will be done to clean up contaminants including metals pesticides, explosives, and oil. Training will be carried out and attended by relevant municipal and academic staff focusing on biological monitoring of pollution in streams and environmental impact assessment. These actions will deal with climate related stresses including water pollution as these actions will lead to a lowered level of contaminants and metals in the city’s water. 

Finally, awareness campaigns will look to empower and educate the local community on the dangers of pollution and deforestation. This project hopes to produce a documentary on the EPIC project model, two journal articles from senior researchers on social and community engagement and scientific aspects of the project, and many newspaper articles to engage the media around the project. Overall, the project partnership between the Harare City Council and CUT looks to use university and student resources to research and understand how to create a more sustainable city

This is an ongoing project and is expected to be completed in July 2024.