PUBLISHED — 24th, June 2024

Having clean air is one of the fundamental rights of urban residents, yet achieving it has become a significant challenge for many cities around the world, including Kampala.

Recognizing the urgent need to address this issue, the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), in collaboration with the AirQo project at Makerere University, hosted a training session on urban air quality management at the Fairway Hotel on Monday.

The training aimed at enhancing the understanding and capabilities of participants in managing air quality within urban settings.

Participants, drawn from all divisions and directorates of Kampala, engaged in the training designed to equip them with the necessary tools and knowledge to tackle air pollution effectively.

The training was led by Prof. Engineer Bainomugisha, the AirQo Project Lead, who emphasized the critical need for access to and the facilitation of evidence-based air quality data.

"To effectively tackle air pollution and manage urban spaces, we must prioritize the availability and utilization of accurate air quality data," Bainomugisha said.

The sessions focused on improving participants' skills in air quality data analytics and effective communication of this data, alongside increasing their knowledge of various air quality monitoring tools.

Highlighting the urgency of the issue, the 2021 World Air Quality Report revealed that Kampala is among the most polluted cities globally, with pollution levels exceeding World Health Organization (WHO) cut-offs by five to seven times in all monitored locations.

Major sources of this pollution include dust from unpaved roads, domestic use of solid biomass for energy, vehicle emissions (both exhaust and non-exhaust), industrial emissions, and the open burning of solid waste.

Fidel Raja, an air quality expert, explained the importance of air quality management by defining it as the measure of how clean or polluted the air is.

He warned that poor air quality, which contains harmful chemical pollutants, poses severe health risks and damages the ecosystem.

The urgency of addressing air pollution was underscored by the new State of Global Air 2024 report from the Health Effects Institute (HEI), which ranks air pollution as the second leading risk factor for death globally, accounting for 8.1 million deaths annually.

In Uganda alone, deteriorating air quality is responsible for over 26,000 deaths each year.

Dr. Alex Ndyabakira, the Makindye Division Medical Officer, emphasized the need for a multi-sectoral approach to air quality management in his presentation.

"Everyone has a role to play in mitigating air pollution," Ndyabakira said.

He called for the development of a city air quality management policy, division-led awareness and sensitization campaigns to control pollution, and an increase in clean energy use in schools.

Kampala is already making significant strides in addressing air pollution by monitoring air quality with an extensive network of sensors. The city has installed over 100 air monitors, making it one of the leading cities in Africa in terms of air quality monitoring infrastructure.

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