Air, waste and water pollution are major environmental problems in Eritrea.

In accordance with the WHO’s guidelines, the air quality in Eritrea is considered unsafe. Recent data indicates that the country’s annual mean concentration of PM2.5 is almost five times the WHO recommended maximum of 10 µg/m3 [1].

Solid waste generation and management is a major concern for cities. In developing countries, especially in Africa, collected waste is mainly disposed in open landfills, many of which are neither properly operated nor maintained and pose a serious threat to public health [2].

In Eritrea, solid waste is collected by the municipality in urban areas, and then disposed of, without any segregation process, to a land disposal site. Open burning is practiced at the disposal sites without any treatment, expect medical waste which is burned in a pit and its ashes and other remaining materials buried. Other waste generators that lack trucks discard their waste into the environment, and practice open burning [3]. Waste burning is a significant source of dangerous carcinogens like dioxins and furans, and black carbon, that contribute to climate change and numerous human health issues [4]. In 2018, open burning in Eritrea contributed to 3% of GHG emissions from the waste sector [3].

More than 60% of the population of Eritrea live in the rural areas and discard their daily waste around the rivers and farmlands, in the absence of waste collection and management [3].

The quality of water resources in Eritrea is deteriorating [5]. Most municipal sewerage plants and industries in the country discharge partially treated or untreated wastewater containing high levels of organic, metals and other toxic substance directly into surface watercourses, and open sewages prevailing in the country are contaminating groundwater resources [6]. Moreover, due to the booming of the mining industry, water quality is likely to be impacted further unless handled meticulously [5].


Contributors to poor air quality in Eritrea include food processing, the apparel and cement industries, vehicle emissions, and waste burning [1]. In addition, the predominant use of biomass for energy provision in rural households contributes to high levels of indoor air pollution in Eritrea [7].

In Eritrea, solid waste is generated by domestic, agricultural, commercial and industrial activities, whereas wastewater is generated predominantly through domestic, commercial and industrial activities. As in most countries, waste generation in the country is attributed to population growth, industrialization rate and urbanization trend [3].

The major causes of freshwater pollution in Eritrea are the bacteriological contamination of surface waters, sea water intrusion, sewage and industrial wastewater pollution, wastes from agriculture and excessive sedimentation in reservoirs [5].


Key policies and governance approach

The government has made efforts to minimise pollution through improving its policy frameworks and legislatives. Proclamations related to pollution control include: The Port Authority Regulations: (Legal Notice No.103/2005) issue by the Port Authority; Legal Notice No. 63/2002 Regulations to Prohibit the Production, Sale or Distribution of Plastic Bags in Eritrea; Legal Notice No.99/2004 Regulation to Amend the Production, Importation, Sale or Distribution of Thin Plastic Bags Prohibition in Eritrea; and Proclamation No.179/2017: The Eritrean Environmental Protection, Management and Rehabilitation Framework. In addition, Eritrea has ratified several conventions pertinent to pollution and wastes [8].

The Eritrean Environmental Protection, Management and Rehabilitation Framework (No. 179/2017) and Legal Notice No. 127/2017 includes Articles 11 – 17 on control of pollution, such as provisions to control hazardous and toxic substances during production storage, sale, distribution, import and transit subject to fulfilment of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedures and sound management practices [8].

The Government of Eritrea has also worked hard to increase the use of alternative energy, including in its Nationally Determined Contribution. As an adaptation strategy, the government of Eritrea has already taken concrete measures to introduce energy saving cooking stoves for rural households. These stoves have efficiency of about 26% compared to the traditional ones with 10%. Besides reducing the pressure on the forest resources, the advantages of these stoves lie in the use of waste biomass as well as in securing the health and wellbeing of women and children [9].

With regards to water pollution, the key policies include the Eritrean Water Resources Policy (2004 & 2007) and the Action Plan for Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) in Eritrea (2009-2016).



Despite Eritrea’s efforts to set up a policy framework, pollution remains a critical challenge in the country.

All urban centers in Eritrea have practically no well-designed solid waste disposal sites which could be a major cause for air and ground water pollution. As such, the need for properly constructed landfill sites is indicated and underlined in various literatures [5].