“HOW MUCH are two bottles of ‘Fresh Air’, please?” Think that’s ridiculous? Well, good people, you’d better start imagining such a possibility!
After all, a few years ago if a person talked of buying bottled water, we’d have laughed them out of town. Distilled, well, mineral or spring water; bottled water for sale was unheard of.
Therefore, it should not surprise anyone that if the need for bottled air is upon some communities, it may soon be upon us here in Kigali.
For whether it’s upon any community, you may’ve heard of this enterprising Chinese who, when Beijing was engulfed in a cloud of polluted air, was visited by a flash of idea. Chen Guangbiao, already a multimillionaire from recycling business, headed for far-flung pristine regions and there, he went to work.
Once done, he carted eight million cans of fresh air to Beijing and put them up for sale to test the waters of whether they could sell. And, boy, did they sell! They were snapped up and, at 80 cents a can, Chen was $6.4m richer for bottling air that was as free as....er.....not air anymore!
If you think that’s cockamamie, do a rethink. It’s said that air pollution is measured in terms of PM2.5, whatever that is! The recommended daily PM2.5 level is 20 and levels beyond 300 are dangerous. They can cause lung and heart disease.
Yet in Beijing, last January air quality levels hit 755 – a whooping how many levels up from 20?
That’s how said multimillionaire, having a nose for picking a buck on the double, got the flash of idea. Even if he’d been pauper, Chen’d have turned instant millionaire in a flash.
But more seriously, this should be food for thought to us in resource-strapped Rwanda.
What ideas can we pick to turn our underdevelopment into boon?
Lacking factories on industrial scale, we must be having low PM2.5 levels. However, with these fumes from our poorly serviced jalopies and the diesel engines of our lorries, we cannot be below levels of 200. That, if you ask me, isn’t a good place.
Whichever way we prefer to look at it, our fresh air is under threat.
So, this calls for action now. The times dictate that we cut on motorised transport to go totally green. It means going for bicycles and trams; cooking with hydropower, solar power, wind power; going for any power except that from charcoal or any environment pollutant.
It means greening the Rwandan geo-landscape and not filling it with concrete as we are, Kigali.
Talking of which Kigali, where is green?
Granted, Kigali has a healthy cover of wooded green, with its trees, but more trees would mean healthier living.
As for public parks, can the garden near Minadef pass for one? If it does, then it should be provided with benches for people to sit on and freely “breathe in Kigali”. Hopefully, freely “breathing in the environment” will improve the fertility of our minds as it does those of Nairobi residents.
If there is any East African city Kigalois (Kigali residents) should envy, it’s Nairobi.
There is Jeevanjee Garden and then the expansive Uhuru Park, complete with an artificial lake where people freely sail to lofty thought. What we Kigalois call lounging when we see Nairobians sitting on those benches in their parks, the witty lofty-thinking Nairobians will assure us they are not lounging – they are happily “munching on air buggers”!
Not far from these attractive parks, there is the Langata Animal Park, wherein to espy all kinds of wild animals. There, the jolly game will not just carry on “munching” when they see you. They’ll send a dancing peacock to spread out its brilliantly coloured feathers in an expression of ceremonious welcome!
It’s no wonder then that, taking a cue from the Canadian “Just for Laughs Gags”, the lofty-thinking Nairobians have come up with “Naswa”. Their “Naswa” goes something like what follows.
As Nairobians, say you are in Jeevanjee Garden. While you, as “air burger munchers”, are busy, a chatterbox on his/her mobile phone sits between two of you and begins to “absent-mindedly pick lice” from your hair as he talks.
When you sense fingers on your hair, you start and quickly brush their hand off. And idly they saunter off to another bench, still chattering on phone, to again “absent-mindedly” pester others!
Alternatively, the “idlers” may lean on you; scare you landing from a tree wearing a scary mask; “unknowingly” drop something and then outrun you when you pick it and try to hand it to them.
When all is well and done, those witty Nairobians will have compiled a programme that television stations will scramble to buy. The highest bidder’ll pay bundles and lofty-thinking Nairobians’ll laugh all the way to the bank!
The last time I moved about, there was one park without benches in Kampala, no parks at all in Bujumbura and Dar es Salaam. Save for Nairobi, our East African cities, and the countries wherein they sit, are crying out for greening.
But in Kigali, even if we had enough parks or any benches, would we get “air burger munchers” to sit there and stimulate our minds?
That, though, is no excuse for our national TV. They do not have to copy and paste; they can copy and modify.
Still, whatever anyone does, the onus is upon us. Either we go green or it’ll be bottled air.