Why air pollution is a threat to human life

Forests play a key role in purifying the air we breathe; that’s one reason Rwanda is aiming for 30% forest coverage by 2020.
A vehicle pollutes the environment on Kanombe-Remera road. / File

Rwanda will today join the rest of the world to mark the World Environment Day (WED) with environmental champions focusing on raising awareness about the causes of air pollution and how they can be mitigated.

Celebrated annually on June 5, in Rwanda the event will be marked at Kigali Convention Centre Under the theme “Beat Air Pollution”, according to the Ministry of Environment.

“Air pollution is a leading environmental threat to human health. Today, more than 90% of people globally breathe polluted air and approximately seven million people die from air pollution-related causes every year,” reads a statement from the Ministry of Environment.

Air pollution, the ministry said, costs the global economy US$5 trillion in welfare costs annually and ground-level ozone pollution is expected to reduce staple crop yields by 26 per cent by 2030.

Today, the Government, through the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (WED), will present the 2019 Environmental Awards for projects and initiatives that focus on air pollution management.

The awards will recognise best practices and innovation in beating air pollution by districts, small and medium sized companies in the private sector, higher learning institutions and technical and vocational education and training schools, as well as the media.

The awards will highlight initiatives by different sectors to improve air quality and encourage them to keep up their efforts, according to the statement.

As part of the event, a discussion will be held on air pollution mitigation, and the effects of air pollution on human health in Rwanda and its impact on the Sustainable Development Goals.

According to Dr Vincent Biruta, the Minister for Environment, a new study showed that air pollution affects happiness, may cause dementia and could even impair cognitive ability, especially in children, calling for efforts to control it.

“Rather than spend large sums of money addressing the impacts of air pollution, let’s control the problem at its source. Doing so requires a joint effort from the individual level to government,” he wrote in an op-ed published in The New Times today.

He said that the government has put in place policies, laws, regulations and standards to reduce air pollution.

He gave an example of regular car-free days, creation of green spaces, motor vehicle inspections, introduction of bike lanes, and subsidies for LPG as an alternative to charcoal.

Others include vehicle and power plant emissions standards, e-mobility strategies and the recent establishment of the African Air Quality and Climate Laboratory here in Kigali.

Forests also play a key role in purifying the air we breathe. And, that’s one reason Rwanda is aiming for 30% forest coverage by 2020, a goal the minister believes the Government is close to achieving.

The event will also feature the launch of Third National Communication Report on Climate Change.

WED events at the national level have been organised in partnership with the Ministry of Health, City of Kigali, Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA), Rwanda Investigation Bureau, Rwanda National Police, and Rwanda Standards Board.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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