Kampala’s current air quality levels range between 61 µg/m3 (unhealthy) and 172 µg/m3 (very unhealthy), according to research by A systems approach to Air Pollution (ASAP).
The measurements were carried out over a 48 hour period between 23rd and 25th last month.
Consequently, University of Birmingham experts have joined forces with counterparts in Uganda and beyond to call for a new approach to help resolve health, social and economic problems associated with air pollution in the most highly polluted regions.
Delegates at a two-day workshop in India, convened by Prof. Francis Pope and Dr William Avis, from the University of Birmingham, and Prof. Mukesh Khare, from the India Institute of Technology(IIT), Delhi, called for air quality metrics to be incorporated into several of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, most notably SDG3 – Good Health and Well-being.
The workshop also proposed that air pollution be treated as a disaster, in the same way as natural events such as earthquakes and forest fires.
Mark Rubarenzya, from Uganda National Roads Authority(UNRA) addressed delegates at the conference, speaking about the impact of air pollution on people in Uganda and its capital city Kampala.
Prof. Pope, said air pollution kills millions and costs the world economy billions, and tackling the problem is not just a technological issue, but a social-economic and social-political challenge that requires a new approach.
“The University of Birmingham is working with partners in India, Africa and Asia to help understand how our cities can tackle problems caused by air pollution. Many conference delegates were surprised, there is no SDG specific to clean air, but there is plenty of scope to include clean air action many of the SDGs,” Pope said.
Prof. Khare, another expert at the meeting from IIT Delhi said it is vital that solutions to the global threat posed by air pollution are found.
“It is more than just a health risk; it slows our countries’ development, diminishes the quality of life and reduces incomes. Air quality need not have its own UN Sustainable Development Goal, but is extremely important for SDG3 – ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all.
Placing air quality metrics in relevant SDGs could help to improve life for millions of people,” Khare said.
A research team led by Dr William Avis and involving Monika Walia and Dr Bidhu Mahapatra, from Population Council – India, studied several locations. They discovered that pavement dwellers were frequently exposed to severe or hazardous levels of particulate matter air pollution, which could lead to conditions such as acute or chronic lung disease – one of the most common causes of death among this group of citizens.
The workshop delegates also called for policy on the welfare of pavement dwellers against high level air pollution exposure, inclusion of Air Pollution as Disaster and national Clean Air Programme for effective implementation.
The workshop brought together representatives of local and national Indian government, academia, civil society and the international development community.
It involved experts from multiple countries, including Kenya (University of Nairobi), Uganda (UNRA), Ethiopia (Ethiopian Public Health Institute) and a range of cities of the global south, including Dhaka and Kathmandu.