JKUAT Leads Efforts to Combat Air Pollution in Nairobi

Eng. Michael Muchiri from the Ministry of Transport makes his remarks

Institute of Energy and Environmental Technology (IEET) at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) is part of a collaborative project dubbed the Clean Air Catalyst that seeks to combat air pollution and pave the way for a greener Nairobi,

This ambitious initiative which began in June 2022, brings together JKUAT, World Resources Institute (WRI), Nairobi City Council, and Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) to identify and address the critical sources of air pollutants in Nairobi City County.

As part of the project’s mandate, IEET hosted a critical transport data analysis workshop on August 25, 2023, to examine data provided by the National Transport Authority (NTSA) and the World Resources Institute (WRI).

This data is a crucial component of creating an ideal Emission Inventory which will be instrumental in determining significant sources of air pollutants, and thus guide comprehensive efforts to cleanse the city’s air.

While opening the one-day workshop, Director, IEET, Prof. Joseph Kamau said JKUAT is committed to respond to the nascent challenges of air quality which, according to  the World Health Organization (WHO), causes approximately 18000 deaths annually from cardiovascular and lung disease complications.

“We can get harmful emissions from manufacturing processes, wildfire dust, and other natural events but the main sources are the burning of biomass (such as wood in Jikos), roadside rubbish fires, and traffic which has necessitated exploring E-mobility. This is a current area that researchers are thinking about because reduced emissions are key for sustainability.”

Prof. Joseph Kamau explains the impact of air pollution

Eng. Michael Muchiri from the Ministry of Transport, while presenting a map infographic on the growing population, whose economic growth has led to an increase in vehicles in the country, commended JKUAT for taking a holistic approach in looking into the emissions polluting the environment.

He added that there is a need to look into the extractive industries, which he noted, can also pose risks to the health and safety of citizens. He urged researchers to select components of research that will address issues that drive the society forward.

According to Dr. George Mwaniki, Head of Air Quality for WRI Africa, on average, a human being inhales 10 liters of unfiltered air. Therefore, air pollution must be addressed especially through research given that it kills 8,000 people in Nairobi annually.

Currently, 35 percent of Nairobi County’s budget goes to health issues related to air pollution such as hypertension.

 “This is an area with very few experts who would be instrumental in strategies to mitigate climate change. Other often overlooked factors such as the lack of catalytic converters in most cars which would neutralize toxic emissions also need to be remedied.  The Emission Inventory will require accurate data and will help in the formulation of vehicle emission standards.”

Dr. Mwaniki also explained that an emission testing facility is in the pipeline. This center will test the emissions from vehicles to determine access or restriction to Nairobi Central Business District. This bold measure is part of a broader strategy to reduce traffic-related emissions and improve air quality in Nairobi.

Dr. Paul Njogu makes a presentation

The workshop, also attended by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), featured presentations by various JKUAT postgraduate studies from IEET.

Some of the students will be part of the EI data-collecting process, which according to Dr. Paul Njogu, the lead project researcher, will factor in emissions from on-road transportation (e.g. buses and cars) and off-road transportation (e.g. graders and mowers).

The Clean Air Catalyst project is tackling the root causes of pollution in three cities: Nairobi (Kenya), Indore (India), and Jakarta (Indonesia) using an innovative, documented data-to-impact approach. It is anticipated that other cities will use it to address their own air pollution problems, which contribute to high mortality rates in Africa and Asia.

Attendees of the Transport Data Analysis Workshop at JKUAT

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