Erosion, caused by deforestation and overgrazing, is a serious problem in Madagascar. Many farmers burn off their old crops at the end of winter and damage surrounding forests. By 1994, 75% of Madagascar's forests had been eliminated. Water pollution, caused mainly by sewage, is also a significant environmental problem in Madagascar: only 31% of the people living in rural areas and 85% of all city dwellers have access to pure drinking water. The nation has 337 cubic kilometers of renewable water resources with 99% used for farming activity and 1% used for domestic purposes. The nation's cities produce about 0.6 million tons of solid waste per year. The Ministry of Animal Husbandry, Water, and Forests is the chief government agency with environmental responsibilities.
As of 2001, 46 of its mammal species were endangered, as were 28 of its bird species and 255 plant species. Endangered species in Madagascar include the Alaotra grebe, Madagascar pochard, Madagascar fish eagle, and seven species of lemur. There are five extinct species, including Delalande's coua and the great elephantbird.
Worldwide trade in endangered and extinct species, estimated at between $10 and $20 billion in 1996, has created a market for Madagascar's exotic snakes and tortoises. The looting and smuggling of these species has decimated animal habitats and caused severe ecological harm.