Air pollution is currently considered as the greatest environmental health risk globally with many parts of the world recording dangerously high levels of air pollution. World Health Organization (WHO) estimations show that 90 per cent of people worldwide breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. Air pollution causes 1 in every 9 deaths globally. The WHO estimations reveal an alarming death toll of 7 million people every year caused by exposure to fine particles in polluted air that penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, causing diseases including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, including pneumonia. Of the total annual air pollution related deaths, 4.2 million result from exposure to ambient (outdoor) air pollution and 3.8 million from exposure to household air pollution in smoke from dirty cookstoves and fuels.
Since January 2018, UN Environment together with its technical partner, the Environmental Compliance Institute (ECI) is implementing a one year pilot project to support three African cities – Addis Ababa, Kigali and Nairobi – to develop better air quality management strategies in order to protect public health and the environment. The overall objective of the project is to build the capacity of relevant national and city officials to develop, implement and enforce improved policy and regulatory frameworks for air quality management, and support the development of strategies for better air quality management in these cities. In furtherance of this project, UN Environment and ECI, working with local stakeholders in the three cities, are conducting situational analyses of the air quality policies and regulatory frameworks for Addis Ababa and Kigali cities, and developing an Air Quality Action Plan for Nairobi City.
So far the draft reports of the Air Qulaity Policy and Regulatory Situational Analysis for Addis Ababa and Kigali cities have been concluded. A stakeholders’ validation workshop was held on 18 September 2018 at the UN Conference Centre in Addis Ababa wherein the stakeholders gave their comments and input on the draft Addis report. A similar validation workshop is planned for Kigali in November 2018 to obtain stakeholders’ views on the draft Kigali report. Some of the preliminary recommendations coming from both reports include: the need to set clear national and city level goals that balance between economic development and environmental protection; the need to enact, implement and enforce coherent air quality laws, regulations and standards; the need to develop appropriate infrastructure for vehicle inspection and maintenance; the need to establish an age restriction on imported used vehicles while providing incentives for purchase of new vehicles and/or investment in cleaner vehicle technologies; the need for aggressive education and awareness campaigns on air quality management in order to obtain the support of policy makers and the public on current and future air quality interventions; and the need to strengthen the monitoring and enforcement capacities of relevant institutions.
For Nairobi City, the project inception workshop was held 4th September 2018. The Aie Quality Action Plan for the city is currently under development through a multi-stakeholder technical committee and will be subjected to a validation workshop later in the year. The Nairobi action planning process is complimenting on-going work between the Nairobi City County Government and the Stockholm Environment Institute aimed at developing an Air Quality Policy for the city.