In Kampala, one of Africa’s fastest-growing cities, a rapid rise in population is prompting growing concerns over the climate crisis and air pollution.
Research shows that urbanisation is one of the main drivers of environmental change, and cities, in particular, are hotspots for air pollution.
Across Africa, rapid urban population growth is leading to an increase in vehicle emissions, burning of waste and industrial output, all of which threaten human and environmental health. By 2050, urban populations on the continent are projected to increase by two billion people.
Clean Air Policies
During Air Quality Awareness Week, the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) launched its Clean Air Action Plan, based on several years of data.
This data-driven plan, part of a larger air quality campaign supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) since 2019, accelerates the city’s capacity to implement better air quality policies for its millions of inhabitants.
It also marks an important step in UNEP’s work on integrated climate and air quality action and its work in other African cities.
“Improving air quality is key to tackling the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste,” said Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director.
“UNEP is committed to expanding its assistance to countries in addressing the pollution crisis, thereby protecting the health and wellbeing of all, particularly the most vulnerable members of our population who, as we all know, are disproportionately affected by this problem.”
Monitoring the Air We Breathe
Nine out of 10 people in the world breathe unclean air, and air pollution is linked to 7 million premature deaths a year. According to a 2021 UNEP report, only 31 per cent of countries have legal mechanisms for managing or addressing transboundary air pollution, and only 57 per cent have a legal definition for air pollution.
UNEP, in collaboration with IQAir, developed the first real-time air pollution exposure calculator in 2021, which combines global governmental, crowd-sourced and satellite-derived air quality data with population data.
It then applies artificial intelligence to calculate nearly every country’s population exposure to air pollution on an hourly basis. Last year, data showed that more than 95 per cent of people in Uganda are breathing polluted air.
With UNEP’s support, the KCAA has deployed 24 low-cost sensors since 2020. These are key contributors to UNEP’s work in analysing and compiling data using a cloud-based platform, and then disseminating this data to help partners develop and implement strategies and action plans.
“Most cities in Africa have no action plans. We expect them to benchmark our approach,” said Alex Ndyabakira, Directorate of Public Health and Environment, KCCA.
“It is data driven and evidence-based, and other African cities can learn from it.”
Learn More: UNEP’s Air Campaign
Image: Jinja Road, Kampala, Uganda
Credit: Prince Beguin on Unsplash