Air, water and waste pollution is a major environmental problem in Ethiopia. Average annual PM2.5 levels in Ethiopia’s towns and cities can reach 30 µg/m3, which is three times the value of WHO guidelines [1]. Freshwater ecosystems in Ethiopia are also deteriorating, because of economic growth, and unwise use and pollution (eutrophication).

Exposure to air pollutants is strongly correlated with increased mortality (early death) and morbidity (ill health) caused by cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, such as stroke, ischemic heart disease, cancer, acute respiratory infections and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) [2]. Indoor air pollution due to combustion of biomass fuels is responsible for more than 50,000 deaths annually and causes nearly 5% of the burden of disease in Ethiopia [3].


The major causes of freshwater pollution (eutrophication) include the use of chemical fertilizers in agriculture, and the large livestock population that has contributed to the increase in nitrogen and phosphorus accumulated in the soil, which is often washed into aquatic ecosystems, and wastewaters from urbanization and industrial effluents [4] .

 Moreover, more than 90% of the population of Ethiopia uses traditional biomass fuels, such as wood, dung, charcoal, or crop residues, to meet household energy needs, which causes mainly indoor air pollution [3] .

Currently, industries in Ethiopia tend to use old technologies and lack facilities for waste treatment, becoming, if not regulated and managed, a cause of air, water and toxic pollution. Ethiopia is among the 10 countries in the world most affected by indoor air pollution.

 Due to fast population growth, expansion of urbanization, and industrial development in major cities  the municipal solid waste management problems, such as an increasing generation rate of solid waste and open burning and dumping in sub-Saharan African countries, are found at an alarming rate. Municipal solid waste management in Ethiopia is a critical issue affecting the environment, human health, economic activities, and the quality of life of local communities [5].



Ethiopia has ratified the Basel Convention, Stockholm Convention and the Rotterdam convention. Article 44 of the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) asserts that “All persons have the right to live in a healthy and clean environment”. In addition, article 92 of FDRE constitution states government has to ensure all Ethiopians live in a clean and healthy environment. [6]In addition to what is stated in the constitution, the country has set policies and a number of related proclamations on environmental issues as legal frameworks for governance of environmental pollution.  These include the Environmental Policy (1997), the Proclamation on Environmental Impact Assessment (No. 299/2002) and the Proclamation on Environmental Pollution Control (No. 300/2002) which provides the regulatory framework for air pollution control in Ethiopia. Sub-Article 6/1/b of the Environmental Pollution Control Proclamation No. 300/2002, for example, specifies ambient air quality standards and provides emission limits for stationary and mobile air pollution sources and the Industrial Pollution Regulation (No. 159/2008). Furthermore, Ethiopia produced its Environmental Health Situational Analysis and Needs Assessment (SANA) report in 2010 as part of the global endeavor to characterize and underscore the importance of connecting health and environment [7].

Ethiopia also adopted a solid waste proclamation as federal law in 2007 which mandates safe, designated waste sanitation areas for people and the environment, as well as household separation of recyclables, and community-level waste management plans [8].



In recent years, Ethiopia has become a regional leader in solid waste management. One incredible example is the country’s work in the Koshe dump site, the only landfill in Addis Ababa,  which has been transformed into a new waste-to-energy plant, the first such project on the continent. The plant incinerates up to 1,400 tonnes of waste every day—roughly 80% of the city’s rubbish—supplying the capital with 25% of its household electricity needs [9].

However, despite the important strides and ratification of key conventions, challenges remain in Ethiopia. Policies for environmentally sound management of hazardous chemicals and wastes are still at a very early stage and not effective in preventing illegal dumping of waste as well as contamination of water, soil and air resources [9].



The country has been investing in a number of mega projects aimed at increasing the renewable energy supply from hydropower, wind, and geothermal sources and attention has been also given to promotion of improved energy saving technologies [10].  Such initiatives have significant impact in reducing the current reliance on biomass energy sources causing air pollution, health risks, deforestation and land degradation. The recent green legacy initiative that aims to plant 20 billion seedlings by 2024 [11] is also an important stride in mitigating the effects of pollution if continuous follow-up is in place so that the planted seedlings could grow and eventually act as carbon sinks.

Beautifying Riverside Sheger Project, which is an initiative launched by the Prime Minster in 2019  with an estimated cost of 29 billion birr ($900 million), aims to enhance the well-being of Addis Ababa  residents by mitigating flooding and pollution through the creation of public spaces, parks and green areas, bicycle paths and walkways covering 56 km along the riverside [12] . The first phase of the project has been completed, with the inauguration of Sheger Park, Entoto Park, and Renovation of the Grand Meskel Square, which equipped the public gathering space with integrated facilities, including an underground parking space that  can accommodate 1,400 vehicles [13][14]

To support Ethiopia to tackle the pollution challenges, the UNEP’s Chemicals and Waste Management Programme is supporting the country with a three-year project to enhance institutional capacity for sound management of hazardous wastes and persistent organic pollutants. The aim of the project is to update existing policies, strategies and regulatory frameworks as well as enforcement mechanisms. As part of the project, Ethiopia will also work towards creating a more synergies between government institutions, as well as engaging in dialogue on mainstreaming chemical management into national plans and institutions. As part of the project, Ethiopia also tries to address the lack of knowledge in regards to  criminal implications of environmental violations [14].



Ethiopia joined the Climate and Clean Air Coalition in 2012. As a part of the coalition, Ethiopia aims at building on existing work to reduce short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP) emissions from the household energy sector, in particular, through the distribution of clean cookstoves and increasing reliance on solar energy. Other priorities for Ethiopia entail reducing black carbon emissions from diesel vehicles and reusing methane emissions through biogas systems [15].

Ethiopia has adopted the draft revised multi-environmental policy (2016), which aims at (i) promoting waste reduction, sorting and separation at sources; (ii) establishing facilities and incentives for cleaner production, waste recovery, recycling and re-use; and (iii) establishing proper liquid waste management systems and facilities

  • Ethiopia has been investing in a number of mega projects aimed at increasing the renewable energy supply from hydropower, wind, and geothermal sources and focus has been also given to promotion of improved energy saving technologies.
  • Ethiopia has also a developed experience on solid waste management in using it as source of energy and implementing initiatives in cleaning riversides and developing public park spaces and planting of trees. In order to reduce air, water, and waste pollutions the country need to double its effort and create public awareness on pollution and waste management.

[1]  UNEP, 2021. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 29 September 2021]

[2] WHO, 2019. [Online]. Available:

[3] Sanbata, H., Asfaw, A., Kumie, A. (2014).  Indoor air pollution in slum neighbourhoods of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Atmospheric Environment, 89, 230-234.

[4] Fetahi, T. (2019) Eutrophication of Ethiopian water bodies: a serious threat to water quality, biodiversity and public health, African Journal of Aquatic Science, 44:4, 303-312, DOI: 10.2989/16085914.2019.1663722

[5]  Hirpe, L & Yeom, C (2021). Municipal Solid Waste Management Policies, Practices, and Challenges in Ethiopia: A Systematic Review.

[6] FDRE (1994). Constitution of The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. 

[7] Review of Policy, Regulatory, and Organizational Frameworks of Environment and Health in Ethiopia (2016). Getnet Mitike, Achenef Motbainor, Abera Kumie, Jonathan Samet, and Heather Wipfli. 

[8] Realizing Ethiopia’s Green Transformation: Country Environmental Analysis, Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice. Washington, DC: World Bank Danyo, Stephen; Abate, Asferachew; Bekhechi, Mohammed; Köhlin, Gunnar; Medhin, Haileselassie; Mekonnen, Alemu; Fentie, Amare; Ginbo, Tsegaye; Negede, Betelhem; Tesfaye, Haleluya and Wikman, Anna. 2017.

[9] UNEP (2021). Ethiopia enhances environmental protections through waste management.

[10] FDRE (2012). Scaling-Up Renewable Energy Programme: Ethiopia Investment Plan. Ministry of Water and Energy.

[11] Ethiopian Monitor: Daily News.  Green Legacy 2021: Ethiopia Plants over 6.7 billion Tree Seedlings.

[12]Terefe, D. (2020). Addis Ababa riverside project gives priority to development over residents. Retrieved from

[13] Ethiopia Monitor (2021). Addis Ababa’s Sheger Park Inaugurated. News.

[14]Ethiopia Monitor (2021). Grand Meskel Square-City Hall Project Inaugurated. News.

[15] Climate & Clean Air Coalition. Ethiopia.