By Nancy Emily Nagujja
The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), and AirQ, Makerere University, in collaboration with the U.S Mission Kampala together with other partners join the rest of the world to commemorate the 16th annual Air Quality Awareness Week (AQAW 2022).
This year’s celebrations are under the theme: “Be Air Aware and Prepared” to share information on air quality, and how it affects health, as well as encourage people to take action to reduce air pollution.
The National Environment Management Authority has developed air quality regulations and standards for Uganda. Dr. Akankawasa Barirega, The Executive Director, of NEMA noted that these standards will regulate emissions generated from; vehicles, workplaces, industries, fugitive emissions, indoor air quality, and the general ambient air quality. AirQ is an air quality research initiative based in the College of Computing and Information Sciences, Makerere University. Its main objective is to contribute to the improvement of urban air quality by developing low-cost sensing devices to measure air quality in African cities while applying artificial Intelligence (AI) to derive insights and engage decision-makers to inform mitigation actions. NEMA, a state-run environment watchdog, is working on new regulations and standards aimed at reducing emissions.
Professor Engineer Bainomugisha, the AirQ Project Lead noted that data from AirQ and KCCA Air Quality Monitoring Systems. According to the information for the past seven months, daily air quality levels were largely within moderate and unhealthy zones with Kampala metropolitan registering higher pollution levels compared to other cities. According to the 2021 World Air Quality Report, Kampala Capital City was ranked among the most polluted cities with pollution levels exceeding WHO cutoffs 5 to 7 times in all monitored locations. The main sources of air pollution in the city include dust from unpaved roads, domestic and solid biomass energy use, exhaust and non-exhaust emissions from vehicles, industrial emissions, and open burning of solid waste. “Using digital tools to affect and drive change. We are building a data-driven foundation to tackle air pollution and other environmental challenges affecting Uganda. We have invested our expertise in developing smart air quality monitors that enable us to quantify the magnitude and scale of air pollution across the country.” He added. Authorities have been trained on how to analyze, interpret and understand air quality data thereby taking informed policies and actions. With this Authorities have the power to take mitigation actions to reduce air pollution.
According to Dr. Daniel Okello, KCCA’s Director of Public Health and Environment, air pollution levels recorded in the city were higher than the World Health Organization (who) recommended levels by 5 to 7 times across all divisions with Kawempe recording the highest concentration at 57ug/m3. KCCA has been at the moment developing the Kampala clean air action to guide the coordinating activities Kampala Air and spell out all activities aimed at reducing pollution in the city. KCCA approaches the city air pollution control from an evidence-based angle using a multi-sectorial approach. As the secretariat of the pollution control task force, we wish to appreciate our partners including the National Environment Management Authority, the US Embassy, the Makerere University Lung Institute, the AirQ project, and the Geohealth hub at Makerere University School of Public Health, and Vital Strategies.
KCCA has come up with a Kampala Capital City Clean Air Action Plan in the bid to address air pollution in the city which is going to involve the following: Continue developing and maintaining comprehensive monitoring and reporting infrastructure for all ambient pollutants, emissions inventory, and pollution source apportionment, Consolidate infrastructure and framework for public awareness on health and environmental impacts of air pollution, mitigation measures, and benefits. Build and strengthen an effective implementation and enforcement program for air quality management through capacity building. And design and implement strategies for reducing sectorial contributions to annual ambient pollution (PM2.5 & NO2) concentrations by 10% from background/baseline levels.
With the ever-increasing urban population, air pollution in Kampala City and other urban centers is projected to worsen if no deliberate interventions are put in place. There is a need to facilitate evidence and access to air quality data to take action against air pollution and better manage urban spaces. Whereas AirQ has been instrumental in providing low-cost sensors for monitoring air quality in most parts of the country, there is hence a need to invest in systems that will provide a wide range of parameters that are currently not being monitored and are yet of public health concern.
Experts warn that with the ever-increasing urban population, air pollution in Kampala is projected to worsen if no deliberate interventions are implemented. Uganda calls for joint action as the world marks Air Quality Awareness Week. However the public is called upon to play a role in reducing air pollution, the Authority advises that individuals can cycle or walk as a way of reducing their carbon footprint.
The US Mission Kampala is working closely with National responsible bodies to create awareness for the reduction of air pollution and sensitize people on the need for clean air across the country.