Both traditional and modern farming methods in Zambia involve clearing large areas of forest. As of 1985, the nation had lost 270 square miles of forestland, mainly to slash-and-burn agriculture but also to firewood gathering and charcoal production. Consequent erosion results in the loss of up to 3 million tons of topsoil annually. The exclusive cultivation of a single crop on agricultural land and the use of fertilizers threaten the soil and contribute to acidification. Air pollution is caused by vehicle emissions and coal-powered industrial plants. Lack of adequate water-treatment facilities contributes to the prevalence of bilharziasis and other parasitic infections. Water pollution arises from contamination by sewage and toxic industrial chemicals. The nation has 80.2 cu km of renewable water sources, of which 77% is used for farming and 7% for industry. Roughly 88% of Zambia's city dwellers and 48% of the people living in rural areas have pure drinking water.
The Copperbelt region, Zambia's mineral-extraction and refining center has been polluted by contaminants including acid rain. The buildup of toxins in the soil near many smelters poses a threat to food crops. Wildlife is endangered in some areas by hunting and poaching, although the National Parks and Wildlife Act (1982) mandates automatic imprisonment for trading illicitly in elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns. In 2001, 11 of the nation's mammal species, including the black rhinoceros, and 10 bird species were threatened, as well as 5 types of plants.