Vehicle emissions are the leading cause of air pollution in Kigali and other urban areas, the Minister of Environment Vincent Biruta said on Thursday, citing data on sources of air pollution in the country.
Speaking at the National Seminar on Air Pollution in Kigali, Biruta said domestic wood, charcoal cook stoves and burning in fields are the primary contributor to poor air quality in residential and rural areas.
I would like to encourage us all to put our heads together to find innovative ways to address the problem [of air pollution] and strive to build an environment free from air pollution, and indeed pollution of any kind, he said.
“Together we can beat air pollution.”
In Rwanda, more than 2,200 deaths were attributed to ambient air pollution in 2012 and the number of hospital admissions for acute respiratory infections in health centers across the country increased to 3.3 million in 2015, up from 1.6 million in 2012, according to information from Rwanda Environmental Management Authority.
The minister said rather than spend large sums of money addressing the impacts of air pollution, there is need to control the problem at the source.
“Doing so requires a joint effort – from the individual to government. That’s why we are putting in place the policies, laws and standards to reduce pollution,” he said.
Biruta urged the public to plant trees in their gardens and public spaces to filter pollution from the air, and help to cool the city through shading and releasing of water vapor.
Monitoring data has indicated that concentrations of some types of particulate matter in Kigali are elevated and, at times above globally acceptable standards, according to Biruta.
He also noted that Rwanda is being affected by all major pollutants but particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide are the pollutants of main concern.
The seminar brought together scientific community and other stakeholders to discuss ways to develop solutions to beat air pollution.
It was co-organized by Rwanda Environmental Management Authority and the Ministry of Environment as part of series of events marking the National Environment Week launched last week ahead of the World Environment Day due on June 5.
Activities during the National Environment Week include raising community awareness to prevent air pollution through sports, inspection on plastic pollution and motor vehicle inspection, among others.
Today, more than 90 percent of people globally breathe polluted air and approximately seven million people die from air pollution-related causes every year, according to the minister.
Chronic exposure to a polluted air increases to the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as lung cancer.
Rwanda’s strategies to beat air pollution include having car-free days, creating of green spaces, vehicle inspections, bike lanes, and government subsidies for liquefied petroleum gas as an alternative to charcoal.