Clean and Green Environment – an Impetus to Development

By: Simon Woldemichael

Eritrea is a signatory to various conventions related to the environment. In 1996, it acceded to the Convention on Biological Diversity which provides general obligations for member states. As a signatory to the Convention, which came into force in 1993, it has issued appropriate legal and institutional adjustments to enable it to implement and enforce the provisions of the convention. The issuance of the multiple proclamations intended for the rehabilitation and protection of the environment demonstrates the commitment of the government.

Recognizing the significance of having a guiding policy on biodiversity, the government designed the first National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) in 2000. The NBSAP presents the overall policy position to restore, conserve and manage the biodiversity of Eritrea. Two years later Legal Notice No 63/2002 on “Regulation to prohibit the production, importation, sale or distribution of thin plastic bags in Eritrea” was issued to prohibit the production, import, sale, or distribution of plastic bags of high density or low-density polyethylene product not exceeding 2 mm in thickness. To protect the environment from the adverse effects of harmful chemicals, the government issued Legal Notice No. 11/2006 on “Regulations issued to determine the Importation, Handling, Use, Storage and Disposal of Pesticides.” This proclamation identified and listed pesticides that may be imported to Eritrea.

To manage the water resource in a balanced and sustainable manner and to secure the participation of the people in safeguarding the proper utilization of the water resources Legal Notice 162/2010 on “The Eritrean Water Proclamation” was issued in 2010. The objective of the proclamation is to ensure that the water resources (surface and groundwater) of the country are utilized in a sustainable manner and for the best social and economic advantage of the Eritrean people. Conservation and protection of water resources from pollution are critical for the overall development and transformation of the people.

Another regulation worth mentioning is the Environmental Management Regulations NO.127/2017. Article 11 of this legal notice is devoted to waste disposal and management. The article states that “Every urban and rural administrative authority shall establish efficient waste management systems and safe dumping sites in their locality.” As far as the management of hazardous wastes, Article 14 of the proclamation lists and classifies hazardous wastes.

The Eritrean Environment Protection, Management and Rehabilitation Framework Proclamation No. 179/2017 is another legal notice published with the objective to establish the foundation of environmental management and protection laws and provide the institutions and legal instruments for their implementation and enforcement. It also aims to advance an environmental policy framework consistent with sustainable development. These proclamations are intended to protect the biotic factors such as human beings, plants, animals, and microbes as well as abiotic factors such as air, water and soil. To reverse the adverse environmental problems, various measures such as soil and water conservation, area closures, afforestation, and rehabilitation of degraded areas have been undertaken by the government in collaboration with local communities.

In the past, the thirty-year-long armed struggle together with the persistent drought has negatively impacted the natural environment of Eritrea. The country’s rich biological diversity has been denuded for decades. This deterioration of the natural environment added complications to the fight against poverty.

National development depends on the use of natural resources. During the colonial era, the natural resources of Eritrea were exploited without attention to conservation and sustainability. This awareness of past affliction prompted the newly independent country, Eritrea, to adopt the National Code of Conduct on the Environment in 1995 to demonstrate an “unfailing dedication to maintain the national lithosphere (land), hydrosphere (water), and atmosphere (air) at levels of purity conducive to a healthy environment.”

Eritreans have a deep sense of public participation. Community involvement has always been an indispensable element in winning any national action. This national character must be channeled to the preservation and sustainable use of biodiversity for present and future generations. The protection of the environment should be made part of our policy of national security. The defense of our resources is just as important as the defense of our territorial integrity. As the survival of the fish is solely dependent on the water the survival of human beings is entirely dependent on a clean and green environment. A healthy environment has a bio-magnetic force that attracts everything necessary for life. Among others, trees attract and support life. Planting trees is equivalent to planting hope for the future. The plantation is the best option to have a green environment and the best option against pollution.

Extensive deforestation has resulted in many indigenous plant species becoming extinct or endangered, and it affected the fertility of the soil and crop production. It’s time to reverse the situation and nurture our nature so that we can have a better future. Every responsible citizen must join the race to make the natural environment of Eritrea a better place.

Although it’s virtually impossible to develop a nation without making an impact on the environment, we should always remember that we can lead healthy lives only when we keep the natural environment safe. Therefore, the nationwide initiatives such as community-led soil and water conservation and summer work of students should be intensified for sustainable development and for both present and future generations of Eritrea to live in dignity.