Vehicle emissions, open fire burning top cause of air pollution in Rwanda—Study

A study has revealed that vehicle emissions are the leading cause of air pollution in the City of Kigali and other urban areas, while domestic biomass cook stoves from wood and charcoal and open fire burning in fields are the primary contributors to poor air quality in residential and rural areas.

This was revealed on Wednesday in Kigali during the launch of a report on findings about ‘Inventory of Sources of Air Pollution; Determination of future trends and development of a national Air Quality Control Strategy’.

The meeting brought together policy makers, stakeholders in the environment and health sectors as well as other stakeholders to discuss the findings of the air quality monitoring study.

The 2017 State of Global Air Report, long-term exposure to air pollution contributed to the deaths of 6.1 million people in 2016 with strokes, heart attacks, lung disease and lung cancer causing many of them.

Air pollution is the fourth-highest cause of death worldwide, trailing smoking, high blood pressure and diet related diseases, and the majority of these deaths are recorded in poorer nations.

Speaking at the meeting, the Minister of Environment, Dr. Vincent Biruta said that air pollution challenge is also affecting Rwanda. He said that in 2012 more than 2,000 deaths were attributed to ambient air pollution.

Between 2012 and 2015, the number of hospital admissions for acute respiratory infections in health centres across the country increased by almost double to more than 3.3 million.

“Today, air pollution is not only an environmental challenge, but also a risk to our national development. That’s why the Ministry of Environment and the Rwanda Environment Management Authority commissioned the study to assess the major sources of air pollution. Only by knowing the problem can we adequately respond to address it,” he said.

He said the study review provides an understanding of air quality in Rwanda by identifying sources of pollution, establishing a baseline and developing related strategy and policy recommendations to mitigate air pollution.

The study indicates that vehicle emissions are the leading cause of air pollution in the City of Kigali and other urban areas, while domestic biomass cook stoves from wood and charcoal and open fire burning in fields are the primary contributor to poor air quality in residential and rural areas.

“It is troubling that a three month study conducted in Kigali last year found that particulate matter concentrations in the city occasionally exceeded World Health Organisation guidelines. However, it was also reassuring to note that the high concentrations of these pollutants, which were largely attributed to vehicle emissions, greatly reduced during holidays and car-free days. This clearly demonstrates that we must continue to clean up our transport sector and look to new, cleaner technologies and innovative policy measures to reduce air pollution,” he said.

In January 2015, the government of Rwanda enacted new vehicle emission regulations, representing one of the first large-scale air pollution mitigation steps in the region. In 2016, a revised law governing the preservation of air quality and prevention of air pollution was passed.

Photo: Rwanda Environment Management Authority Director General, Colette Ruhamya and Environment Minister, Dr. Vincent Biruta.

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