By Duncan Mboyah

Researchers on air pollution have asked African governments to develop and implement home-grown policies to help reduce air pollution in the emerging mega-cities.

They spoke during a recent workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, which reviewed the status of the science, current and future needs of the atmospheric research community in addressing the growing air pollution, climate change and their impacts on society in and around mega-cities.

The researchers urged governments to intensify public awareness and education on the need to improve air quality. Dr. Nicholas Ozor, the executive director of African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) told the workshop that the increasing air pollution linked to climate change requires that all countries set in place policies that could help improve the quality of air in the cities.

“There is need to collaborate with experts to help develop workable national policies needed to revert the current adverse air quality in African cities,” Dr. Ozor said this during the opening of the workshop on air quality that was attended by experts from Kenya, South Africa and Britain.

He urged governments to build peoples capacity and invest in infrastructural development that improve air quality in the cities to help save lives while reducing dependence on wood fuel and ensuring sustainable provision of affordable and reliable modern energy services to rural and urban households.

Dr. Ozor recommended a ban on importation of used motor vehicles of certain age adding that the vehicles imported into Africa produce obnoxious fumes. He emphasized that there is need to promote sustainable use of clean energy, efficient fuels for cooking and heating, enforcement of vehicle emission limits while imposing zero tariffs on importation of clean and renewable energy.

He told African governments to honour the Lagos Plan of Action that required all the African governments to allocate one percent funds for research which includes tackling air quality research.

Dr. Ozor called for the inclusion of the importance of air quality into school and college curriculum to help guide students and revealed that ATPS is developing research policy aiming at improving the understanding and functioning of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) processes and systems to strengthen capabilities, social responses, and governance of  STI-led sustainable development in Africa.

ATPS also helps in promoting the generation, dissemination and use of STI for African development, environmental sustainability and global inclusion.

Dr. Kirsti Ashworth from the Environment Centre at the Lancaster University observed that the rising poor air quality in the major cities in the continent calls for quick interventions.

Dr. Ashworth called for initiatives towards the management of indoor pollution that is to blame to many deaths of people who use biomass for cooking and heating their homes. “The state of air quality is getting worse by the day in many parts of the continent,” she noted.

She called for thorough research and awareness creation on the cause of poor air quality and the development of a network of experts from different fields of study to help reduce its effects. “Raise awareness on the need for interdisciplinary co-produced research to holistically tackle the challenges of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” she added.

Prof. Michael Gitari, from the University of Nairobi’s Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology revealed that Africa’s contribution to the science of pollution is extremely low.

Prof. Gitari however said that West African Francophone countries have done research that is far above the Anglophone countries. “Governments must consider funding air pollution research to develop data as a way of reducing the vagaries caused by climate change adverse effects,” he added.

Dr. Gitari noted that the situation is getting worse more so with the increasing rural urban migration and the increasing number of vehicles on major roads in the cities.

He warned that if urgent action is not taken by the governments, then the countries will lose their economic drivers such as agriculture, report increased disease, ecosystem degradation and increased human conflicts.

Scientists at the workshop urged African governments to adopt the World Health Organization (WHO) ambient air quality standards and apply these standards with best practices for other pollutants not addressed by WHO.

They said that emissions from large combustion sources such as thermal power plants and cement manufacturers should have limits and undertake regular analysis of samples of air, water, soil or other substances to maintain required environmental standards.

The participants who attended the workshop courtesy of the British Council’s Researcher Links Programme under Newton Fund, suggested that governments develop criteria and procedures for the measurement of air quality and recommend standards for ambient air quality, occupational air quality, emission standards for various sources.

The workshop aimed o address the growing issue of air pollution, climate change and their impacts on society in and around merging mega – cities. The participants intend to introduce a wide range of techniques and skills required to pursue cutting edge, transformative atmospheric research.