As Rwandans usher into the new year of 2018, the ministry of environment through Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) has devised new measures while strengthen the existing ones to ensure Rwandans breath clean air.
REMA commissioned a new baseline air quality study that was carried out between August and December 2017 after reviewing all existing data from 2010.
The study helps to know where to put more efforts in 2018 by recommending measures to fight traffic emissions and other sources of air emissions that negatively impact health.
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.
The study’s analysis reports that the World Health Organization estimated that 2,227 deaths in Rwanda were caused by air pollution in 2012 where the main cause of death from poor air quality in Rwanda was acute lower respiratory disease and stroke.
“In 2012, top cause of morbidity (being sick) in health centers in Rwanda was acute respiratory infections, accounting for 21.7% of all patients admitted. Respiratory infection was the top cause of deaths of children under 5 years in Rwanda in 2012,” it reports.
Sources of air pollution
The study has found that, “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 says residential areas have moderate to high pollution levels while particulates matters and oxides of nitrogen which come from traffic emissions and cooking with biomass are the ones which exceed National standards.
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 contributes more than half (58%) of the nitrogen oxide pollution.
“Increasing number of vehicles will exacerbate ambient air pollution in Rwanda if nothing is done to control emissions from traffic. The total number of registered vehicles increased from 88,621 in 2010 to 161,925 in 2015 close to double within 5 years,” shows the study.
However, it indicated that industrial emissions affects only the region in direct neighborhood but do not have a regional or city wide impacts
In rural areas, the study found that use of biomass fuels for cooking and seasonal bush fires in tropical African regions are the main source of pollution.
Air quality control strategy
Some of the strategies proposed by the study include refreshing existing air quality standards so that they are tailored to the specific needs of Rwanda and based on measurement and emissions data.
They also include restricting the age of imported cars, so that newer less polluting vehicles enter the country.
It adds that there is need of smooth traffic flows to reduce congestions mainly round about and priority lanes, increase road capacity by adding lanes, provide alternative roads to busy junctions, limit some areas to bus/taxi only.
It calls for investing in public transport system, reduce emissions from domestic stoves, use LPG, natural gas, more efficient stoves and develop renewable energy generation.
The study says there is also need to manage freight movement around Kigali with a more efficient distribution systems and in a long term develop new roads that can carry cross border traffic that do not pass through the main city centers.
Rwanda has set up different plans of which some are being implemented while others are awaited.
More measures in 2018 for reducing traffic emissions
REMA says more measures have been taken to monitor vehicular emissions in the country so as to reduce air pollution.
“The efforts are pushed for more enforcement of emission testing at vehicle inspection center by pulling out polluting vehicle for onsite inspection and possible fine if they do not comply with standards,” said the Deputy Director General of REMA, Mr. Faustin Munyazikwiye.
Other measures from multiple stakeholders, he said, include reducing traffic jams by constructing new roads and widening existing roads, developing public transportation, developing green places and car free zones.
The measures are founded on other achievements in reducing vehicular emissions and air pollution namely through enacted Prime Minister’s instructions No. 005/03 of 27/12/201 and the Law N° 18/2016 of 18/05/2016 governing prevention of air pollution in Rwanda.
In the same development ,equipment to test vehicle emissions at vehicle inspection center were purchased in 2014 and are being used at the Motor vehicle Inspection Center while mobile equipment to test vehicular emissions were purchased and are also being used.
REMA says cleaner fuel standards were adopted in 2015 by EAC countries where sulfur content of gasoline was moved from 1500ppm to 150 ppm and diesel from 500ppm to 50ppm, he added.
Munyazikwiye said that Rwanda Revenue Authority has included depreciation value on tax calculation, where older vehicles have higher tax rates than newer ones. This is gradually increasing the ratio of newer vehicles.
‘Only new motorcycles are allowed to be imported for commercial use and motorcycles not older than 5 years old are allowed for personal use,” he said.
Car free zone reduces traffic emissions
Preliminary findings on air quality study in the end of 2017 show that Car-Free Day reduces air pollution by 56 per cent every Sunday it is practiced.
The research is being conducted by researcher Egide Kalisa.
The initiative launched 2016 in Kigali city aims at boosting green transport as part Green Growth strategy.
More air quality monitoring equipment to be installed
Munyazikwiye said that in general to monitor air pollution from different sources, four air quality monitoring equipment were purchased and installed; two in Kigali City, one in Western Province (Gatsibo District) and one in Southern Province (Nyamagabe District).
He added that, “more equipment will be installed between January and April 2018 adding that Rwanda air quality standards were developed by Rwanda Standard Board.
Reducing biomass use
The effort of reducing biomass use, he said, is led by infrastructure ministry, where the Rwandan government has pledged to reduce the use of biomass for cooking from 85% in 2012 to 50% by 2020, in favor of Liquefied Petroleum Gas and natural gas.
In addition, REMA says, efforts have been made to develop more efficient stoves, using biogas etc as LPG is recommended in Cities while efficient cook stoves are recommended in rural areas.
Government will soon establish strategic gas reserves to avoid shortages given the increasing number of Rwandans using LPG. It will also introduce regulations to guide gas trading to avoid illegal filling.
The use of LPG in cooking has increased from 724.6 tonnes in 2010 to 2,808.43 tonnes in 2016 according to available figures recently presented to parliament.
Reducing pollution from industries
Meanwhile more industries are urged to continue embrace cleaner and production technologies
By using clean energy and energy efficient production, Rwandan industries have reduced energy consumption by about 7,528,914 megajoules so far, while total reduction in carbon dioxide equals to 2,188.67 tonnes every year as of 2017 under Lake Victoria Environmental Management Project phase two (LVEMP II) supported by Rwanda Environment Management Authority.