Air pollution is a serious public health problem in Honduras. However, no air quality monitoring system is in place.

The main health problems identified in Honduran children under five years of age and in housewives are acute respiratory infections and eye problems. An important risk factor for these diseases is exposure to smoke from biomass fuels, especially firewood, inside the home.

In 2006, the Ministry of Health reported more than one million cases of medical care for respiratory diseases, 27% of these were recorded in Tegucigalpa and most involved children under 5 years of age. A recent World Bank study estimated that more than 500 premature deaths a year could be attributable to urban air pollution in Honduras. The affected population is mainly elderly people, whose lives are shortened by exposure to air pollution.

This translates into high costs related to medical care, as well as losses in the country's productivity and competitiveness. The health costs associated with urban air pollution are in the order of approximately 51.6 million dollars per year. Indoor air pollution is linked to some 780 premature deaths per year, 65% of which correspond to infants and the remaining 35% to the elderly. The costs associated with indoor air pollution amounts to approximately 59.2 million dollars per year.

A significant proportion of agricultural activities, mainly the subsistence production of basic grains, are carried out on hillsides by smallholders using poor farming techniques that significantly damage the soil quality and cause other environmental impacts (pollution by agrochemicals). 

Solid waste generation in Honduras shows an increasing trend, as the population and productive activities increase. Based on the data from the latest population census, the 8,303,771 inhabitants of Honduras in 2013 generated some 4,151.9 tons of solid waste every day. This represents a 9% increase with respect to 2007 when the population was 7,585,155 inhabitants.

The report “Regional Evaluation of the Management of Urban Solid Waste in Latin America and The Caribbean 2010” [1] estimated that the average generation rate of household solid waste reached 0.61 kg/person/day in Honduras. In large and medium-sized municipalities, greater generation was observed than in small municipalities. The largest municipalities such as Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, reported the largest rates of household solid waste generation. Both municipalities were estimated to contribute 38% of the household solid waste load, equivalent to 1,726 tonnes/day. The 20 medium-sized municipalities contributed 34% of the total load. The 276 other municipalities, mostly small or micro, contributed less than 27% to the total volume of solid waste.

The inadequate solid waste management prevailing in most municipalities causes serious contamination to the environment with direct consequences for human and environmental health.

Final disposal of household and municipal solid waste is one of the most critical stages of Solid Waste Management (SWM) in the country. The coverage of final disposal sites with appropriate infrastructure has improved only slowly. The coverage of sanitary landfills increased from about 0% to 11.3% between 2001 and 2010, compared to the 2.1% population growth rate in 2010, the increasing consumption of products, and the subsequent generation of solid waste.

Municipal solid waste final disposal sites were located in 25 cities and municipal capitals of 11 departments in the country in 2012. Of this total, 19 sanitary landfills were in operation, three were under construction, nine were closed operation and three had technical closures.


The main causes of poor air quality in Honduran cities include the increase and concentration of the vehicle fleet (especially in Tegucigalpa), emissions from the industrial sector (San Pedro Sula), and emissions from fires and burning of grasslands. About 46.7% of the country’s population and 63.2% of the vehicle fleet are concentrated in urban areas. About 27.6% of the population is concentrated in the Central District which is mostly affected by vehicle emissions. San Pedro Sula city, which harbours 17.0% of the country’s population, is affected by emissions from fixed sources, due to the concentration of industrial activity in Honduras. Over 498 forest fires, affecting 56,972 ha, were reported in the country in 2013.

Sugar cane production is the main agro-industrial activity associated with the release of atmospheric pollutants. On the one hand, burning the cane plant to facilitate its cutting during harvest is a common practice. In addition, canes are transported to sugar mills in high-emissions diesel trucks. Sugar is then produced in mills equipped with old boilers that burn heavy fuels and cane bagasse and lack emission control systems. Coffee roasting is another agro-industrial activity whose emissions into the atmosphere need to be evaluated.

The largest cities such as Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, Choloma, La Ceiba, Choluteca, and El Progreso generate 54% of the total volume of municipal solid waste in the country. Only 20% (60) of the 298 municipalities in the country have a waste collection service. Final disposal is the critical phase in solid waste management and only 3.7% (11) of the country's municipalities have some infrastructure for adequate final disposal (sanitary landfills). Most of the country's final disposal sites are unregulated open dumps. Because of this, it is very common that during episodes of prolonged or intense rain, floods occur in cities, since garbage obstructs stormwater drainage. It is also common for streams and rivers to carry large amounts of solid waste.


Key policies and governance approach

No air quality standards to regulate air pollution and protect health are in place. 

The main mitigation measure proposed for the waste sector consists of constructing sanitary landfills in strategic locations in one or more municipalities that can provide regional coverage, serving smaller municipalities in the same region. In addition, another measure is the formulation of policies, strategies, and action plans to implement integrated solid waste management through the strengthening of municipalities and citizen participation. Currently, the Law on Integrated Solid Waste Management is under discussion in the National Congress.

Honduras’ Policy for the Environmentally Sound Management of Chemical Products, has the objective to guide the rational management of chemical products throughout their life cycle, preventing and reducing the risks that these cause to human health and the environment. Honduras has also submitted its National Implementation Plan in 2010 to the Stockholm Convention on the Management of Persistent Organic Pollutants, comprising six action plans to achieve environmentally sound management of POPs.


Initiatives and Development Plans

Atmospheric monitoring of particles is currently being developed, thanks to the technical and financial support from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA-Honduras) for the establishment of a Manual Monitoring Network in the Central District. The network includes two points, one in Barrio El Centro and another in Colonia Kennedy, both supplied with equipment for measuring PM10, PM 2.5, and TPS (total suspended particles).

In relation to domestic air pollution caused by wood stoves, technicians trained by ENDEV - GIZ have built 12,000 improved stoves in 13 departments of the country. The improved stoves have improved the quality of life and health in homes. Acute respiratory and eye diseases have decreased significantly in women and children, and they no longer suffer from skin conditions, and the improved hearth helps prevent burns. Food cooking time was reduced to one third; by reducing smoke, houses look cleaner, and the kitchen is now a new space in the home to be comfortable.

MIAMBIENTE, with support from the Pan American Health Organization, formulated the National Guide for the Formulation of Municipal Director Plans for Integrated Solid Waste Management in 2013, with emphasis on medium-sized municipalities. The guide is to be used by municipal staff as a tool that promotes participatory planning, facilitating technical and operational decision-making related to the integrated solid waste management.

A number of initiatives are being carried out or are in process, to reduce or regulate the use, release, and transfer of chemical pollutants. These include:

Assistance to the Government of Honduras to comply with its obligations under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. This project supported the production of the situational diagnosis of the 12 initial substances regulated by the Stockholm Convention. Stocks of POPs pesticides, Polychlorinated Biphenyls, releases of dioxins and furans, and limited national capacities for the management of chemical products were identified.

Strengthen National Governance for the Implementation of the Strategic Approach for the Management of Chemical Products at the International Level.  This project was financed by the Quick Start Fund of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) whose scope is to contribute to national governance for the application of this (non-binding) international approach, update the National Policy for the Environmentally Sound Management of Chemical Products and update the National Profile of Chemical Products. The project also generates a SAICM Implementation Plan Proposal for Honduras.

Regulation for the Environmentally Sound Management of Hazardous Chemical Substances in Honduras. The main objectives of this project were: a) Regulate the integrated management of all hazardous chemical substances and hazardous waste in the country; b) Regulate in a differentiated way, the phases of the life cycle of chemical substances and hazardous waste and the practices corresponding to each one of them; c) Minimize risks to human health, including that of workers and the risk to the environment, throughout the life cycle of hazardous chemical substances; d) Adopt across all the relevant private and public sectors strategies for the management of hazardous chemical substances, in a transparent, effective and efficient manner, based on the appropriate scientific knowledge, including the effects on health and the environment aimed at preventing environmental pollution and preventing unnecessary exposures to these substances and their residues at all stages of the life cycle.

Pollutants Release and Transfer Registry (RETC). Honduras PRTR was created in 2011 with the objective of establishing a National Inventory of Emissions and Transfer of Pollutants that support decision-making and the formulation of policies on environmental prevention and control. MIAMBIENTE will be responsible for the implementation and coordination of the PRTR at the national level.

Insertion of the Environmentally Sound Management (GAR) of Chemical Products in the National Plan. This joint UNDP – UNEP project aims to formalize the National Policy for the Environmentally Sound Management of Chemical Products and the National Chemical Products Commission.


Goals and Ambitions

Chemical contaminants. Attain SDG 12.4 Achieve the environmentally sound management of chemical products throughout their life cycle and the Adapted National Indicator 12.4.1 Percentage of compliance with reports as required by each of the ratified international conventions, on the environmentally sound management of products containing chemical substances.

Solid waste. Attain SDG 12.2 Reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse activities and indicator 12.2.1 National recycling rate.

  • It is necessary to establish an Integrated Solid Waste Management framework that allows municipalities, as the entities responsible for providing public services, to have methods and instruments for organising solid waste management in coordination with generators in their jurisdictions and regulatory entities. Clear and solid financial mechanisms and funds are equally required as well as the strengthening of the municipalities’ technical capacities. 
  • Control of air pollution and improvement of air quality are at the core of public health policies. Another key challenge is the lack of an air quality monitoring network in Tegucigalpa and other major cities. Local technical capacities for operating and maintaining these systems would also be necessary to formulate a national policy on clean air.