Air quality scientists met in Naivasha to strategize on how to reduce air pollution in the country.
Air is a public good and polluting it is equivalent to dumping in the atmosphere. Pollution has no boundaries. Kenya, like most places in the world faces a lot of environmental challenges, some of which are man-made and others climate change related. All these have increased poor health and reduced the quality of life.
Over 5million Kenyans living in major cities and towns are directly exposed to toxic emissions mainly from motor vehicles, industries, use of traditional fuels and kerosene used for cooking and heating. Indiscriminate burning of solid waste also causes air pollution.
Air pollution causes death and increased illnesses such as respiratory ailments, heart conditions, brain damage and cancers. It is estimated that 14,300 Kenyans die annually due to conditions attributed to air pollution. Pollution also affects plants and agricultural yields.
The quality of human life is closely associated with the ecosystem in which they live. Air pollutants adversely affect the air we breathe in. In fact the air we breathe in the cities is poisoned. The problem with air pollution is that it cannot be bought like purified water and we can therefore not escape from it.
‘In several cities around the world, people have to wear breathing masks to protect themselves from pollution. Masks have become part of their wardrobes. We do not want this country to go down that road. We want to make sure every breathe we take matters’, said Charles Sunkuli, Principal Secretary for Environment when he opened the workshop on air quality management and coordination.
To address emissions from the transport sector in a more targeted manner, the PS said the Ministry is in the process of forming an Inter- Ministerial Task force on Testing and Licensing of Emissions in the sector. The goal of the task force will be to work on modalities and procedures for emission testing for land, air, and sea based transport.
The PS recognized the work being done by International Maritime Organisation (IMO), which addresses pollution from maritime vessels. He added that the Ministry will encourage such cost effective ventures in addressing air pollution issues. The PS also acknowledged the work being done by ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization to address emissions from the aviation industry adding that the Ministry will complement those efforts with domestic regulations.
‘Our goal is to ensure compliance with the current legislation on sources of pollution in industries and traffic as well as strengthen effective enforcement’, said Sunkuli. ‘This will be done by developing accurate emission inventories and the Ministry will also encourage technologies and measures to further reduce the exposure of citizens and ecosystems to air pollution.
The PS reiterated the government’s commitment to reduce air pollution levels in the country adding that a National Air Quality Management and Coordination Strategy will be developed to address this.
Participants were drawn from government entities, development partners, private sector, research institutions and NGOs.