By Edwin Muhumuza
Environment stakeholders are calling for more effort to have quality air in major cities in the country .This on grounds of the impact of poor air quality on socio-economic status.
Their concerns arose as the country joined the rest of the world to commemorate the 15th annual Air Quality Awareness Week (AQAW) 2021 with focus on emphasizing actions that promote clean air quality held under the theme “Healthy air – Important for everyone!’’,
In Uganda it is estimated that over 30,000 people die annually due to air pollution-related illnesses and air quality levels in monitored urban in centers are estimated at over 5 times the WHO annual guidelines.
Speaking during the press conference, Dr. Tom Okurut the Executive Director National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) noted that the Authority has been involved in the development of National Environment Air Quality Standards for Uganda which will among other things set parameters and limits for the protection of public health, focus on industrial emissions putting limits beyond which industries and other facilities should not exceed.
‘Therefore there is a need for enhanced sectoral monitoring to know the dominant sources of air pollution so as to draw appropriate actions against the trend.’
Professor Engineer Bainomugisha, Principal Investigator at AirQo noted that they have introduced a concept that allows them to generate data insights which can be used by communities and government to take actions that can help improve air quality.
‘To pilot this program we have started with Kawempe division by deploying a high dense air quality network and we have also launched a new program called air communities where we engage them to interact with the data through community champions who use their phones to see how the air quality is varying in the neighbourhood and observing events that may lead to air pollution’.
Prof. Engineer Bainomugisha, added that there is need to know how bad or good the air pollution is and devise appropriate actions to improve the air quality in our cities adding that in order to fill the data gap, AirQo has developed a wide network of low-cost monitoring devices that continuously provide data on the extent of air pollution in major cities in Uganda.
“There are over 100 monitors installed that we have placed in different physical settings including on bodabodas to bridge this gap, making Kampala the most monitored city in Sub Saharan Africa. The information collected from these monitors is then analysed to predict the level of pollution in the air. ” Engineer said.
Findings from the pilot source apportionment study, an ongoing collaboration between the U.S. Air Quality Science Fellows and Uganda air quality community facilitated by the US Mission in Kampala, indicate that pollution largely comes from biomass burning, direct exhaust emissions, and dust.
The week-long initiative is happening from the 3rd – 7th May 2021, to expand and support local air pollution solutions among health practitioners, policymakers, opinion leaders, environmental enthusiasts and the general public.