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Land and Resources, Environmental Issues

Lake Nyasa, Lake Malawi National Park, agricultural runoff, fuelwood, environmental modification

Malawi is a very poor country that has a high population density and a high population growth rate. Most people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, and traditional fuels, particularly fuelwood and charcoal, account for 89 percent (1997) of the country’s total energy use. The high population density and dependence on the land put great pressure on the environment for more farmland and fuelwood. Malawi has one of the highest rates of annual deforestation in Africa, at 2.4 percent (1990-2000).

Unsafe sewage disposal, agricultural runoff, and soil erosion due to deforestation combine to contaminate much of the country’s fresh water. Only 57 percent (2000) of the population has access to safe water. In addition, erosion causes siltation of rivers and streams, endangering fish populations.

Nevertheless, Malawi has a rich and diverse wildlife population, and about 28 percent (2000) of the country’s total land area remains forested. Experts believe that Lake Nyasa, also called Lake Malawi, has more endemic species of fish than any other lake in the world. Of the country’s total land area, 11.3 percent (1997) is designated protected. Lake Malawi National Park, at the southern end of the lake, was declared a World Heritage Site in 1984. Poaching continues to be a problem in the protected areas, however. The government has ratified international environmental agreements pertaining to biodiversity, climate change, desertification, endangered species, environmental modification, hazardous wastes, marine life conservation, ozone layer protection, and wetlands.

Article key phrases:

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