Rwanda acquires new air quality monitoring system
Tuesday, September 07, 2021
Technicians testing industrial emissions at SteelRwa in Rwamagana District.

As the world marks the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies on September 7,

Rwanda is set to launch an Air Quality Monitoring System which provides access to real-time air quality information through a new website and mobile application.

The monitoring system provides data on the quality of the air at 23 sites across the country.

Designed in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the new system was funded by the Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA).

The system provides a real-time Air Quality Index (AQI) for each station and will be able to highlight the dominant air pollutant responsible for air quality degradation during the reporting period for each station.

It will also help Rwanda to compare ground observations with satellite data through remote sensing technology to verify their accuracy.

"We are all responsible for the quality of the air we breathe. Rwanda’s new air quality monitoring system gives us the information we need to address air pollution and provides information to citizens about the status of the air where they live and work. This new tool will help us to measure and boost the impact of the interventions we have introduced to reduce air pollution and ensure blue skies for all,” said Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, Minister of Environment.

This year, the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies is celebrated under the theme "Healthy Air, Healthy Planet".

Over three million premature deaths globally are attributed to poor ambient air quality per year.

Approximately 87 percent of these deaths occur in low and middle-income countries.

According to an air quality inventory, in Rwanda, in 2012, at least 2,227 deaths were attributed to ambient air pollution.

The main cause of death and years of life lost from poor air quality in Rwanda was acute lower respiratory disease or stroke.

In 2012 the top cause of morbidity in health centres in Rwanda was acute respiratory infections, accounting for 21.7 percent of all patients admitted to health centres and 6.8 percent of patients admitted to hospitals.

Respiratory infections are the largest cause of deaths in children under the age of five in Rwanda.

The study shows that the number of hospital admissions for acute respiratory infections in health centers consistently increased from 1,682,321 in 2012 to 3,331,300 in 2015.

Sources of air pollution

The study has found that the highest levels of pollution are found near busy roads especially in Kigali city. Emissions from traffic are the major source of pollution in Kigali city especially near busy roads while cooking with charcoal and other biomass is the major source of pollution in residential areas.

It highlights that older vehicles emit higher levels of nitrogen oxide and particulates compared to newer vehicles showing that vehicles made before 1999 account for 28.6 % of total registered vehicles but contribute more than half (58%) of the nitrogen oxide pollution.

In Rwanda, diseases related to air quality claim about 3,000 lives annually, hence ranking among the top ten killers.