Air pollution: Govt mulls use of electric cars

Friday May 18 2018

Fuel station

Rwanda plans to import electrically charged vehicles to replace the commonly used fuel vehicles as it moves to mitigate air pollution. PHOTO | Cyril NDEGEYA. 

More by this Author

The Government plans to import electrically charged vehicles to replace the commonly used fuel vehicles as it seeks to mitigate air pollution.

The Ministry of Environment is commissioning a feasibility study that will inform a decision to import either full electric vehicles or hybrid cars.

The study will be co-ordinated by the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (Rema) in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Infrastructure.

“We are planning to hire a company to conduct the study and give us quotations to be able to introduce these cars,” Vincent Biruta, Minister of Environment, told Rwanda Today.

The Ministry of Environment said the electric vehicles will use rechargeable batteries, thus reducing the amount of fuel that is imported in the country and the money spent.

This potential solution to reduce pollutants emitted from combustion engines was proposed to a parliamentary committee during a recent budget hearing of the Ministry of Environment, Rema, Fonerwa and Meteo Rwanda.

Monitoring system

Last year, Rema was set to install eight air pollution monitoring stations across the country by December 2017.

“The Air Pollution Monitoring System will help us to determine whether or not there is improvement in air quality.

A recent study by Rema showed the air quality status, which will serve as a basis to determine the trends and changes as a result of different initiatives,” said director-general Coletha Ruhamya.

“One of Rema’s mandates is to advise the government and the best way to do this is by using researched-based evidence that could include taxation regulations, incentives and facilitation from the government to encourage people to adopt cleaner technologies,” she added.

The presentation made at the Budget Hearing shows that only 56 per cent of the Air Pollution Monitoring System is complete. Installation has already started and some of the equipment is already in place and operational.

The budget committee was told all the needed equipment will be acquired and ready to be set up by the end of May.

In 2015, Rema partnered with the police to initiate mandatory car emission control checks through motor vehicle inspection centres across the country.

The main purpose of the inspections is to ensure the maintenance of vehicles, as poorly maintained cars increase the amount of pollutants in the air.

“If a vehicle travels without an inspection certificate, it is fined Rwf25,000 by the traffic police,” said Ms Ruhamya.

Lead contributor

A study by the Rwanda Revenue Authority titled Inventory of Sources of Air Pollution in Rwanda identifies road traffic as the leading contributor to air pollution in the country, especially in urban areas.

The calculations presented in the study show that the type, age and speed of vehicles greatly contribute to combustion processes that produce hazardous air pollutants.

However, even as the ministry works to improve air quality in urban areas, more measures are needed to enhance air quality in rural areas.

The MPs raised concern about the effect of biomass to air pollution especially since 83 per cent of the population uses charcoal and wood for cooking purposes.

The Ministry of Environment has proposed that replacing wood and charcoal with gas stoves will help reduce the numbers down to 42 per cent in five years.