Kigali lockdown: Air pollutants reduce by 14%

On 17 February 2021 at 06:39

Following increasing COVID-19 cases and deaths, Rwanda imposed lockdown in Kigali city that lasted three weeks from 19th January to 7th February 2021 with essential activities allowed to continue operations in adherence to control measures.

The lockdown saw daily infections reducing from 200 and above to 50 and 60.
During the lockdown, Dr. Kalisa Egide conducted research on its impact to reducing emissions.

Dr. Kalisa Egide is a lecturer at the University of Rwanda, Department of Science and Technology (CST) and researcher on gases polluting the air.

“I conducted analysis on ‘Coarse particles (PM10)’ caused by construction activities, smokes from combustibles and Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) particles from vehicle emissions. I established that they have reduced by 14% in Kigali compared to the previous time,” he said.

Coarse particles are the relatively large airborne particles mainly produced by the mechanical break-up of even larger solid particles.

Gases polluting the air can reduce due to various reasons including limitation or the absence of vehicle movements.

Among others, Rwanda implemented several preventive measures since COVID-19 emerged on 14th March 2020. People were requested to respect social distancing, wash hands, and avoid unnecessary movements and public gatherings.

On 21st March 2020, Rwanda was the first African country to impose lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

The lockdown that lasted for 40 days reduced gas emissions in Rwanda’s atmosphere by 24% as highlighted by Dr. Kalisa Egide.

The reduction in emissions was also reported in the United Kingdom, India and China.

Dr. Kalisa has told IGIHE that carbon emissions are among challenges the world is faced with considering the fact that over 7 million people die of diseases emanating from polluted air globally.

“Gas emissions from vehicles, combustibles might cause diseases like asthma and lung cancer. It also has adverse effects to national economy,” he said.

The researcher observed that the current pace of Rwanda’s development and growing population demography forecasts extreme increase in emissions if no stringent measures taken.

Dr. Kalisa said that COVID-19 has had negative effects to humans and the economy but observed that it should leave a lesson that reducing air pollutants is possible.

“It has evidenced that preventing air pollutants related consequences is possible if we concert efforts and encourage green projects,” he underscored.

The research carried out by Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) in 2017, indicated that 95, 2% of cars in Rwanda are than ten years old with 56,6 % with the vehicles made before 1999 while 77,2% of them were made before 2000.

The Ministry of Health shows that 13% out of 3 million respiratory diseases recorded every year are caused by emissions.

Rwanda is the first African country that submitted a tougher climate target to the united Nations (UN), promising to cut gas emissions at least 38% % by 2030.

With technical and financial support, Rwanda estimated it could reduce its total emissions by 4.6 million tons of CO2 by 2030.

Measures include the deployment of hydro and solar energy, improving energy efficiency in industrial processes, introducing vehicle emission standards, rolling out electric vehicles and promoting on-farm biogas use.