Government moves to tackle pollution by motor engines

Motor vehicles and other machines running on petroleum products that pollute the environment by emissions will no longer be allowed on Rwandan roads effective January.
A vehicle on Kanombe- Remera road emits black smoke in 2012. (John Mbanda)
A vehicle on Kanombe- Remera road emits black smoke in 2012. (John Mbanda)

Motor vehicles and other machines running on petroleum products that pollute the environment by emissions will no longer be allowed on Rwandan roads effective January.

This follows a Prime Minister’s order meant to curb air pollution caused by vehicular emissions and machines using petroleum products that was gazetted earlier this year.

The order gave motorists 12 months to ensure compliance before emission testing on motor vehicles would commence and punishment meted out on the non-compliant.

The grace period elapses in January and will require that all vehicles undergo a testing process where non-compliant vehicles will not be granted the technical inspection certificate.

Now enforcement organs are gearing up for action with police embarking on training of traffic police personnel and procurement of relevant testing equipment.

The testing will be spearheaded by the Rwanda National Police (RNP) in partnership with the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (Rema).

“All vehicles shall undergo emissions inspection with the Motor Vehicle Inspection Centre. Permissible motor vehicle emissions shall be specified in applicable national standards of vehicle roadworthiness test code developed by the authority in charge of standards development,” the order reads in part.

Commercial vehicles shall undergo emission inspection every six months for emission standards compliance while passenger vehicles shall be inspected once a year.

The gas emission tester is an electronic device that measures the gas levels of any machine.

The order stipulates that any vehicle that does not meet minimum emissions standards shall not be authorised to operate in Rwanda.

It authorises traffic police officers to stop any vehicle and conduct a spot verification of emissions.

“Traffic police officers are authorised to request for an impromptu emissions inspection for any vehicle suspected to be highly emitting. Any vehicle that will not meet the standards shall not be authorised on the Rwandan territory,” the instruction further reads.

On inspection, any vehicle which does not meet emissions standards shall be impounded or the owner will have to pay a monetary fine yet to be established.

The order also requires that all vehicles imported into Rwanda be fitted with catalytic converters to reduce emissions within one year of their entry into Rwanda.

“Every vehicle owner shall have the obligation to maintain their vehicle accordingly to keep them within the authorised emissions limits,” the instructions state.

Fuels for sale shall be subject to inspection to affirm that they are of national standards and have acceptable sulphur content.

Speaking to The New Times, Remy Duhuze, the director of Environmental Regulations and Pollution Control at Rema, said motor vehicle owners have been given enough time to put their vehicles right, hence the reason to commence the testing.

Through the implementation of the Prime Ministerial Order, Duhuze said, the intended impact is reduced air pollution emanating from vehicular emissions.

CIP Emmanuel Kabanda, the Spokesperson for Traffic and Road Safety department, told The New Times that traffic police officers were currently undergoing training on the enforcement of the rules at the beginning of the year.

“We have the machines for the basic inspection of the emissions and we expect to have more machines by the end of the month. By January we will be ready to conduct inspection on all vehicles,” CIP Kabanda said.
Currently, Rema says that in partnership with implementing partners, it is carrying out public sensitisation campaigns on the new law through seminars, among others.

However, despite the fact that there is only a month to the implementation of the law, a spot check by The New Times revealed that the majority of Kigali City motorists are not aware of the new law and whether or not they are compliant.

Aphrodise Bayigamba, a Kigali based taxi driver, said he is yet to be informed of the legislation as there had never been a forum at which cab drivers were informed of the new law and its requirements.

Experts have said that among challenges that Rwanda is facing in this process is the “lack of vehicles age limitation”, since a common age limit has not been adopted within the East African Community.

The taxation regime is also another challenge given that, in Rwanda, older vehicles pay less tax than new vehicles.

A research, conducted by Rema in 2011 showed that the country faces a problem of air pollution caused by vehicular emissions resulting from poor maintenance and use of second hand vehicles, adulteration of fuel products, and improper traffic management systems.

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