Lack of legislation and consolidated stakeholder interventions hindering clean air in Kampala

By Edwin Muhumuza

Excerpts from the institutional assessment on air quality management, a World Bank-funded research.

Qualitative indicators show that air quality in Kampala and surrounding municipalities has deteriorated over time. According to AirQo, a research initiative of Makerere University that champions the drive to have clean air, the influence of three major sectors; transportation, energy and industry is highly responsible for the state of air quality.

During the institutional assessment stakeholder workshops funded by the World Bank, key issues raised was that lack of explicit legislation on air quality management continues to be a major hindrance towards having a safe environment. NEMA is still in the process of reviewing national air quality regulations.

According to Sadam Kiwanuka, Project Officer KCCA Climate Change Project, the limited technical and financial capacity to implement occupational safety standards has been a major setback for industrial emissions management, adding that government bodies continue to focus on waste management, water pollution, wetland management among other sectors, and little attention is given to the quality of air.

AirQo Project Lead Prof. Engineer Bainomugisha reiterated the need to have a multi-sectoral approach to these challenges. However, participants expressed concerns over the limited engagement with industries to promote self-monitoring. At present, there is no self-monitoring due to limited capacity on effective monitoring and reporting strategies. This coupled with a lack of harmonized policy regime to guide planning makes it impractical to create self-sustaining neighborhoods within the Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area (GKMA). Self-sustaining neighborhoods bring services closer to the community and thus limit mobility and exposure to air pollution.
Eleth Nakazzi, the Project Manager KCCA Climate Change Project noted that urbanization has a major influence on air quality adding that over 50% of the World’s population lives in urban areas while Uganda is urbanizing at a rate of 5.3%, one of the highest in sub-Saharan Africa, reason being that urbanization is considered a key driver of economic growth and Cities as centres of economic activity, job opportunities which attract labour driving further population growth, higher service quality compared to rural areas.

Deo Okure, an Air Quality Scientist at AirQo, said that tailpipe emissions from motorized transportation, road infrastructure (paved vs unpaved, during construction), choice of transport mode combined with domestic combustion, that is to say, domestic energy mix and solid waste combustion, industrial thermal and electrical energy (minimal) are the leading causes of poor air quality in Greater Kampala and beyond.

Currently, the bottlenecks are that air quality is not fully incorporated during vehicle inspections, limited technical, financial capacity for successful enforcement by national and local governments, and for implementation, and not fully incorporated at the planning stages of physical developments, especially during the environmental impact assessment processes.

Other challenges include, insufficient road infrastructure being a major problem. Kampala City has 12000km of roads of which only 29% has been paved, reliance on low-carrying capacity vehicles 14-seater vans (‘taxis’), private cars and motorcycle taxis, the low-fuel quality/adulterated fuels on the market, lack of infrastructure to support alternative/green transport, for example, Non-Motorized Transport incentivizes vehicle ownership and motorization and about 25 signalled junctions which lead to congestion and uneven flow of traffic on major roads.

Furthermore, wastes and industrial pollution are on a high amid limited capacity to manage solid wastes, illegal dumping of other waste profiles especially construction waste because of limited investment in sensitization. This trend is coupled with limited data and studies quantifying the effects of air pollution for different demographic contexts yet equally important such sector-based emissions, residential, economic and social impacts of air quality, and modelling atmospheric influence.

In winding up the discussion, they recommended strengthening and consolidating existing regulatory frameworks, developing technical capacities for air quality management, investment in sustainable transport alternatives and promoting collaborations between academia, private sector and policy actors.

The key actors currently undertaking air quality monitoring in Kampala include Makerere University under the AirQo initiative, KCCA and the US Embassy. Prof. Engineer Bainomugisha further confirmed that these initiatives are working together to develop and improve the potential for low-cost monitoring making it more accessible for local governments.

Key facts to Note according to the study.

-Pollution patterns indicate that the highest pollutant concentrations (with respect to Particulate Matter) are observed between 05:00 and 10:00, and 16:00 and 02:00, while 10:00 to 16:00 are the least polluted hours of the day.

-During the peak pollution hours, major roads and commercial centres experience disproportionately higher levels of pollution as generation is almost inversely correlated with dispersion. Across all the monitoring locations, however, concentrations are largely within the unhealthy zones.

-Greater Kampala area hosts more than 32% of the manufacturing businesses in Uganda and ideally on track to attract more industrial activity and with it the level of industrial pollution if not regulated.

-The location of industries is majorly around wetlands and fosters the formation of informal settlements due to the settlement of cheap labour close to employment opportunities, further complicating the pollution matrix associated with industries.

-Contribution of domestic solid waste management practices to the pollutant emissions profile of the City is such that there is limited segregation of waste streams at source, the formal waste collection currently operates at 60% coverage, making informal settlements among the most underserved areas and residents resorting to open waste burning as a method of waste disposal.