In-depth: Environment & Energy

 Workers help terrace steep farmland in Eritrea. The stone walls help prevent soil erosion and retain moisture. Photo: UNDP

Environmental sustainability is one of the strategic partnership cooperation between the United Nations and the Government. Eritrea. is vulnerable to droughts, floods, increased variability in rainfall patterns and/or reduced precipitation, soil erosion, desertification and land degradation. As part of Government’s efforts in addressing these challenges and meeting its obligations under the Conventions on Biological Diversity, the Convention to Combat Desertification, and the UN Convention on Climate Change, the Montreal Protocol, different policies, strategies and legal instruments regarding the protection, conservation and proper management of biodiversity have been put in place.

These include, the National Adaptation Programme of Action, National Action Plan for Combating Desertification, National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plan, National Environmental Management Plan (NEMP), National Strategic Action Plan on Water Resources, National Sanitation Policy, Water Law, a proposal for the preparation of an Environmental Law and a Climate Change Adaptation Fund Project.  The framework of public health adaptation to climate change to provide a comprehensive and evidence–based coordinated response to the negative effects of climate change is being adapted by relevant government departments.

Despite all these developments, Eritrea still faces challenges and capacity gaps in implementing its national strategies and global commitments. While the country appears to be on target on the issue of safe drinking water (61% reach) an estimated 1.3 million people still need to gain access to an improved drinking water source by the year 2015.  An internal survey on water supply coverage carried out by Water Resources Department in 2011 realizes the issues on the lack of operation, maintenance and management capacity within the community water and sanitation committees.

Groundwater is the basis of domestic water supply and can be tapped in all parts of the country, even though not in the quantities and qualities desired. Problems of groundwater depletion have been reported in various parts of the country. The country therefore needs to ensure sustainability of available ground water resources. 

Sustainable Energy

Currently, the energy consumption pattern in Eritrea is unsustainable. Biomass energy, used mainly for cooking purposes and covering basic living needs, contributes to around 80% of the country’s total energy consumption. Electricity is generated through thermal powered engines which is expensive and unreliable.  To help mitigate this situation UNDP seeks to support the Eritrean government develop sustainable energy supplies specifically through renewable energy technologies like wind and solar energy.

Through a joint UN strategic cooperation framework, UNDP is assisting the Government’s effort to bridge the capacity gap. This support is focused on strengthening the ability of national institutions to establish the management systems of protected areas, restoration of forests, mangrove and biodiversity species protection system, sustainable land management (SLM) system, and reduction of forest deterioration through the promotion of improved cooking stoves. 

What we are doing

The UNDP also supports studies and assessments on natural resource and environmental management which includes support in the implementation of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). UNDP also offers support to climate change with a focus on climate change adaptation for sustainable development.

The Environment and Sustainable Development team collaborates with the government to ensure sustainable use of natural resources and improvement environmental governance. UNDP considers capacity building of relevant Ministries and governmental agencies is vital in achieving better environmental management; and supports preparation and harmonization of legal and policy frameworks and building human and institutional capital towards effective environmental management.

Considering the importance of effective natural resource management plays in poverty alleviation and attaining food security vice-versa, UNDP supports the improvement of sustainable livelihood initiatives. Additionally, efforts are underway to harmonize specific interventions to catalyze the attainment of MDGs in particular, eradicate extreme poverty and ensuring environmental sustainability.

Over the last decade Eritrea has made considerable progress with the support of UNDP in different fronts such as mapping of the  Coastal Marine and Island Biodiversity resources and establishing an Integrated Coastal Area Management framework; piloting viability of application of renewable (Wind) energy technologies in Eritrea, Land use policy formulation and demonstrating effective sustainable land management practices and awareness raising in combating desertification and climate change impacts in development plans. UNDP has further assisted Eritrea to fulfill its commitment to UNFCCC and prepare its initial and second national communications; strengthening national capacity for effective land use planning and policy development and; preparing National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) to climate change.

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