An evaluation of the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) and Rwanda National Police’s ‘Healthy Vehicle, Cleaner Skies’ campaign, which has been ongoing since March this year, revealed that in some urban areas, 80% of vehicles tested, mostly old cars, emit huge amounts of greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
Currently, Rwanda has 221,000 registered vehicles, 52% of which are motorcycles and 38% passenger vehicles, of which at least 30,000 are in Kigali.
More than 95% of cars on the road in Rwanda are currently more than ten years old with less stringent emissions standards than newer models, according to REMA.
According to REMA, the huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles have been identified in some parts of the country such as Huye district in Rwabuye and the bus station area, and some parts of Kigali city. among other secondary and satellite towns.
The ongoing campaign targets owners of fossil fuel vehicles and machinery using petroleum products, to maintain them properly and keep them in good working condition to reduce emissions, which contribute to global warming. It also aims to encourage car owners to use fuels that meet national standards, with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to preserve air quality for all.
During the campaign, mobile emissions tests were carried out in Kigali City as well as in the districts of Huye, Rwamagana, Musanze and Rubavu, among others.
Beata Akimpaye, Division Manager for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement at REMA, told The New Times that the transport sector remains a major source of air pollution in Rwanda, especially in areas urban.
“The main contributors to transport-related air pollution are old and used motor vehicles imported with poor or degraded emissions control technology. Vehicles manufactured before 1999 contribute 58% of oxide emissions nitrogen and 66% of inhalable particulate emissions,” she said.
She said that there are several preventive measures to combat air pollution, including an air quality monitoring instrument system that provides data (real-time air quality index ) on air quality across the country.
The data is also accessible on the “Rwanda AQI” application so that users can compare ground observation data with satellite data,” she said.
Impact of air pollution from old cars
Greenhouse gas emissions are of concern given that air pollution is a major environmental threat to human health, Akimpaye said.
Air pollution caused by old cars and other sources, she said, has a major impact on the evolutionary process of plants by preventing photosynthesis in many cases, with serious consequences for purifying the air we breathe.
“Air pollution from old cars and other sources is also a major contributor to global warming and climate change,” she said.
Today, 90% of the people in the world breathe polluted air and approximately 7 million people die each year from causes related to air pollution.
Even at low doses, air pollutants are harmful to human health and ecosystems. Exposure to these pollutants is strongly correlated with increased mortality from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, such as stroke, ischemic heart disease, cancer, acute respiratory infections, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
According to the 2020 report of the Ministry of Health, these non-communicable diseases were the second cause of death in Rwanda, while respiratory diseases were the main cause of morbidity in Rwanda in 2019.
“These trends are mirrored globally where approximately seven million people die prematurely each year from the effects of indoor and outdoor air pollution. This makes air pollution one of the leading causes of death risk. globally after high blood pressure, smoking and unhealthy diet,” she said.
Akimpaye said that it is recommended to carry out regular service of vehicles and to use other means of transport such as the use of bicycles or walking.
“It is recommended to protect, maintain, rehabilitate and plant forests in a sustainable way because forests play a big role in absorbing harmful greenhouse gases that cause climate change. People must play a role in the use of public transport rather than private transport to reduce vehicle emissions that contribute to air pollution,” she said.
During the campaign, Commissioner of Police (CP) John Bosco Kabera, spokesman for the RNP, said inspection and emissions testing is a requirement for all vehicles in Rwanda to prevent pollution air.
“The contribution of vehicles to ambient air pollution in the city cannot be ignored. All motor vehicles in Rwanda are required to undergo inspection and emissions testing at the Motor Vehicle Inspection Centre. Any vehicle that does not meet the applicable emission standards is not allowed to operate in Rwanda,” said CP Kabera.
The traffic police, he added, also have mobile portable vehicle emission inspection equipment for on-site emission checks.
Switch to electric vehicles
Other responses in collaboration with stakeholders, she noted, include initiatives in the energy and transport sectors.
“In the transport sector, the focus is on green cities and electric mobility,” she said.
In April 2021, an electric mobility strategy which contains tax incentives for electric mobility inputs, lower electricity tariffs and other incentives was also introduced.
According to the Ministry of Environment, full adoption of electric vehicles and related solutions in Rwanda will require up to $900 million.
Studies show that electric vehicles could save 20 billion Rwandan francs on imported fossil fuels by 2025.
Over the next 10 years, Rwanda aims to convert 20% of the Kigali Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) fleet of bus services to electricity at a cost of over $1 billion and 33% of motorcycles.