Know your rights: The right to clean air

Air is essential to the health of every living thing; be it plant or animal and as such, it must be kept clean. For this reason, N° 18/2016 of 18/05/2016 the law governing the preservation of air quality and prevention of air pollution in Rwanda was instituted.

Article 6 of the law governing the preservation of air quality and prevention of air pollution prohibits emission of chemicals, materials, gas or any hazardous substances. No person is allowed to release toxic substances without authorisation from Rwanda Environmental Management Authority. This law extends to people who produce, transport, trade, use, and store and possess substances that are likely to result in pollution.

Article 7 of the law governing the preservation of air quality and prevention of air pollution requires every person to adhere to the highest limits of air pollutants. This means that those who seek to engage in activities that are likely to pollute the air ought to know what the government regards as ambient air quality standards.

It’s unavoidable for industries to release pollutants into the air. However, article 8 of the law governing the preservation of air quality and prevention of air pollution in Rwanda says that there is a tolerance limit for such pollution as par the standards set by Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA).

To assure adherence to standards, means of transport with an emission source must undergo inspection. Additionally, transporting or storing construction materials must be done in accordance with the law. This is according to articles 9 and 10 of the law governing the preservation of air quality and prevention of air pollution in Rwanda.

Storage of objects in a way that may lead to air pollution is forbidden under article 11 of the law governing the preservation of air quality and prevention of air pollution in Rwanda. Article 12 cautions any person who burns waste to avoid emitting air pollutants.

Article 13 mentions other potential sources of air pollution such as power plants, gas extraction, plants, boilers, generators, and heaters which must be handled with cautious consideration to maintain clean air.

This is not to say that only those in industrial production are responsible for preserving air quality. Article 15 of the law governing the preservation of air quality and prevention of air pollution in Rwanda says that everyone is responsible.

If an activity is found to interfere with air quality, REMA, or an administrative authority such as City of Kigali, must give a stop order by way of writing.

According to article 18 of the law governing the preservation of air quality and prevention of air pollution in Rwanda, such an order ought to provide detailed information so that the person who receives it understands it and knows what is required of him/her. This will help the person to comply with the standards and then request for his/her activity to be reinstated.

Sometimes emission of air pollutants happens accidentally. If it does, the person responsible must, according to article 20 of the law governing the preservation of air quality and prevention of air pollution in Rwanda, report to REMA or the nearest administration no later than 24 hours and also make an effort to deal with it.

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