By Ambrose Gahene
On Tuesday, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), and AirQo, Makerere University, in collaboration with the U.S. Mission Kampala and other partners joined the rest of the world to commemorate the 16th annual Air Quality Awareness Week (AQAW 2022).
This year, the celebrations are being held under the theme: “Be Air Aware and Prepared” with the goal of sharing information on air quality and how it affects health, as well as encouraging people to take action to reduce air pollution. The National Environment Management Authority has developed air quality regulations and standards for Uganda. “These standards will regulate emissions generated from; vehicles, workplaces, industries, fugitive emissions, indoor air quality and the general ambient air quality,” noted Dr. Akankwasa Barirega, the Executive Director, NEMA.
Speaking during the press conference at Uganda Media Centre, Professor Engineer Bainomugisha, the AirQo Project Lead noted that data from AirQo and KCCA Air Quality Monitoring Systems indicates that, in the last seven months, daily air quality levels were largely within the moderate and unhealthy zones with Kampala metropolitan registering higher pollution levels compared to other Cities.
According to Dr. Daniel Okello, the 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 57μg/m3.
According to the 2021 World Air Quality Report, Kampala Capital City was ranked among the most polluted cities, with pollution levels exceeding WHO cut-offs 5 to 7 times, in all monitored locations. The main sources of air pollution in the city include dust from unpaved roads, domestic solid biomass energy use, exhaust and non-exhaust emissions from vehicles, industrial emissions and open burning of solid waste. With the ever-increasing urban population, air pollution in Kampala City is projected to worsen if no deliberate interventions are implemented.
KCCA has been at the forefront of developing the Kampala clean air action plan to guide coordinated activities for cleaning Kampala air and spell out all activities aimed at reducing air pollution in the city. “In Sub-Saharan Africa, Uganda inclusive, air pollution is known to be more deadly and costlier than malnutrition and unsafe water and recently HIV/AIDs, and yet systems and deliberate policies to manage air quality are not fully established,” noted, Dr. Okello.
According to a population survey conducted in 2018 among 2,936 people in Uganda, the overall prevalence of asthma was 11.02% with a higher prevalence of 12.99% reported among residents from urban centres.
“Asthma-related mortality rate was 27.3 deaths per 1000 person which increased with age,” noted Dr. Bruce Kirenga, the Director of the Makerere University Lung Institute;
“The rising prevalence of asthma in Uganda could be attributed to the increased exposure to air pollutants such as particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) from multiple sources such as ineffective use of biomass fuels. Moreover, a population survey conducted among adults and adolescents in Uganda found that living in urban areas and use of biomass fuels was associated with asthma”.
” KCCA will implement strategies for reducing sectoral contributions to annual ambient pollution (PM2.5 & NO2 ) concentrations by 10% by 2025 by tarmacking more city roads, increasing the number of signaled junctions and traffic management innovations to streamline city traffic control as well as promoting and implementing green mobility alternatives including electric mobility, Non-motorised transportation (NMT) and mass-transit alternatives”, he added.
Professor Bainomugisha noted that there is a need to facilitate evidence and access to air quality data in order to take action against air pollution and better manage urban spaces.
“As AirQo, we have not only been able to expand our air quality monitoring network across the country but also trained decision-makers on how to analyse, interpret and understand air quality data thereby improving access and facilitating evidence that authorities can use to take mitigation measures,” Noted Professor Bainomugisha.
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.