Rwanda has purchased monitors to track emissions, as part of efforts towards mitigating the risks associated with air pollution.
The quality of air has been deteriorating due to growing industrial activity, urbanisation and road traffic, but the lack of data has made it difficult for government to control pollution.
According to the environment watchdog, it is difficult to come up with tangible policy actions until a scientific assessment is carried out, based on data recorded over a long time, detailing what the population is exposed to, the levels and trends of pollutants.
Sources say the government spent Rwf927 million on acquiring the air quality monitors.
The monitors have been installed in more than 10 locations countrywide, and will track pollution from major roads, industries and infrastructure facilities like electricity plants, towers as well as building complexes.
The locations include Rusizi, Rubavu, Nyabihu, Gicumbi, Byimana, Kirehe, Kayonza, Nyagatare and Kigali City.
“We have purchased and installed most of the air quality monitoring equipment. The last one was recently received and the installation is expected soon. We will be providing data analysis reports on the status of air quality nationwide every quarter,” said the director-general of the Rwanda Environment Management Authority, Coletha Ruhamya. She added: “We expect that the data will help in assessing the effectiveness of existing policy measures and inform on the best way forward.”
The decision to track air pollutants comes at a time there are growing global concerns that the quality of air is deteriorating beyond levels accept able by the World Health Organisation.
A 2018 inventory of the sources of pollution shows that emissions from vehicles and burning of biomass alone has exposed Rwanda to particulate matter with concentrations becoming increasingly a concern in urban areas.
Without emission tracking systems, regional environment regulators find it difficult to determine those compliant with the existing pollution standards.
“It then becomes difficult to issue alerts in cases when people are exposed to unhealthy air quality, and decision to tackle pollution situations are not informed,” said Hermogene Nsengimana, a researcher in environmental pollution, and also the secretary general of the intergovernmental body, the African Organisation for Standardisation.
“We hope that Rwanda sets the stage for other countries to do the same as part of their commitments towards the sustainable development goals, and reduce statistical data in terms of deaths caused by acute respiratory ailments,” he added.
Experts warn that growing industrialisation in East Africa, the transportation sector and issues around wastemanagement systems have compromised the quality of air and impacted on human health.