Uganda calls for joint action as world marks Air Quality Awareness Week

Air quality monitor deployed in Kampala city.

Air pollution in Kampala is projected to worsen if no deliberate interventions are implemented

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | As the world commemorates Air Quality Awareness Week, Uganda on Tuesday called for joint action to address emissions that lead to detrimental health issues.

Experts told reporters that urgent action is needed to address air pollution in the east African country, especially in the capital Kampala where some parts register higher levels than those set by World Health Organization (WHO).

According to the 2021 World Air Quality Report, Kampala was ranked among the most polluted cities, with pollution levels exceeding WHO cut-offs by 5-7 times. The main sources of air pollution include dust from unpaved roads, domestic solid biomass energy use, and exhaust and non-exhaust emissions from vehicles, industrial emissions and open burning of solid waste.

Experts warned that with the ever-increasing urban population, air pollution in Kampala is projected to worsen if no deliberate interventions are implemented.

The warnings come at a time when the world is commemorating the 16th annual Air Quality Awareness Week (May 2-6), which aims at sharing information on air quality and how it affects health. This year’s celebrations are held under the theme, “Be Air Aware and Prepared”.

National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), a state-run environment watchdog, said it is working on new regulations and standards aimed at reducing emissions.

“These standards will regulate emissions generated from vehicles, workplaces, industries, fugitive emissions, indoor air quality and the general ambient air quality,” said Akankwasa Barirega, the executive director, NEMA.

Barirega said the regulations and standards will also form a basis for enforcement if one violates the set cut-offs.

To reduce on the emissions, KCCA said it will be tarmacking more city roads, increasing the number of signaled junctions and traffic management innovations to streamline city traffic control. The city will also promote and implement green mobility alternatives including electric mobility, non-motorized transportation and mass-transit alternatives.

The public, according to KCCA, also has a role to play in reducing air pollution. The authority said individuals can walk or cycle as a way of reducing the carbon footprint. Individuals can also among others use alternative transportation (bus or carpool) to get to work.

Engineer Bainomugisha, the AirQo Project Leader based at Makerere University, Uganda’s top university, said the project is continuing to deploy air quality monitors in different urban centers. Through a phone application, one can see the quality of air in space and time across the country.

He said authorities have also been trained on how to analyze, interpret and understand air quality data thereby taking informed policies and actions.

“With this information, authorities have the power to take mitigation actions to reduce air pollution,” Bainomugisha said.

He said the project has also been carrying out community outreaches teaching the public on the effects of pollution and how they can help protect the environment.

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Xinhua

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