Kenya joins the search for a pollution free sky
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31 July 2016
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Searching for pollution free skies. Photo - Isaiah Esipisu

By David Njagi
NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) - The noose is tightening around rogue enterprises which have turned Kenya’s cities and towns into smoke canopies.

An air quality control regulation that the National Environment Authority (NEMA) launched last year will soon enable the agency to fit vehicles and industries with a pollutant unit to monitor their volume of exhaust smoke.

“We are going to stick the unit on vehicles and industries valid for two years to find out if the owner is polluting,” explains Prof. Geoffrey Wakhungu, director general NEMA. “The ones found to be polluting will be forced to dump the dirty asset or find ways to clean it up.”

NEMA has partnered with Kenya Bureau of Standards, Energy Regulatory Commission, Kenya Ports Authority and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) to launch this project as part of Kenya’s commitment to grow into a green economy.

But the crackdown on air pollution is not confined to cities alone. According to Prof. Wakhungu, the air pollution control project is a devolved function that involves the participation of county governments.

“We are also going to work with counties,” he explains. “Each of the counties will have a testing center which will be working with the central one for the purpose of setting standards.”

Rob De Jong, UNEP’s head of transport unit estimates that air pollution will become worse by 10 per cent relative to the current levels in the next five years.

A report released during the ongoing United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) lists motor transport, small scale manufacturing, burning solid fuel and coal fired plants as the largest contributors to urban outdoor air pollution.

The report, Actions on Air Quality, estimates that road transport emits 30 per cent of particulates in European cities and up to 50 per cent of emissions within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.

“UNEP is urging countries to do more on air quality control by engaging in the air quality control programme,” says De Jong.

Meanwhile, UNEP is testing seven air quality control devices that will be connected to GPS to continually monitor air quality in many locations.

UNEP executive director, Achim Steiner, says in many cities across the world people do not know the air quality status because of poor infrastructure.

“UNEP is working to ensure the cost of technology is lowered to make air quality monitoring affordable,” says Steiner.

Road transport accounted for 50 per cent of the health costs including death and illness in OECD countries due to air pollution in 2010, says the report.    

In January, NEMA released one billion Kenya shillings to 14 counties as part of the national adaptation programme.

But more funds are expected in the next few months if a proposal that NEMA has placed to the Green Climate Fund goes through.

“It has taken us about two years to get the Adaptation Fund,” explains Prof. Wakhungu. “We want to raise money in a structured manner that it can actually be used for the benefit of communities.”

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