Home » General » Imported Used Vehicles Drive Air Pollution

The huge demand for used imported vehicles and poor restrictions are causing traffic congestion and worsening air quality in most cities in Africa, environmental experts say.

Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) director Anumita Rayochowdhury told African journalists at the first India-Africa Dialogue on air quality and mobility that the unfettered importation of used vehicles mainly for Asia, Europe and America had made controlling traffic congestion and improving air quality in Africa and India difficult.

“India and Africa share the same problems and we have to share experiences to find solutions to the problem of air pollution,” she said.

“Nairobi, Dehli and other cities in the South need second generation action, including technology leapfrog, scaling up of public transport, integrated multimodal transport options, car restraints and walking for clean air.”

The dialogue, which was organised by CSE and the Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (MESHA-Kenya), sought to raise the understanding of experiences of cities in India and Africa on air pollution among journalists.

Environmentalists at the dialogue said the rapid expansion in the vehicle population, mining and manufacturing and higher energy demand have resulted in high emission rates of major air pollutants resulting in a deterioration of the ambient air quality in major cities across the rapidly urbanising African continent.

They said vehicle import statistics for Africa are not known and are not easy to give an estimate.

“The stock of vehicles is quite old and most African countries are failing to enforce vehicle emission control policies,” said Prof Nzioka Muthama of the University of Nairobi.

“Disjointed policies and vehicle import tariff regimes and the absence of emission standards mean that most African countries will continue to be flooded with imports of low-cost second-hand vehicles that do not meet strict emission standards of the countries of their origin.”

Prof Shem Wandiga, director of the Institute of Climate Change at the University of Nairobi, said the rapid increase of motor vehicle traffic with most African countries having limited or non-existent standards for vehicle import and emissions and poor fuel quality resulted in the importation of old second hand vehicles using fuels with high sulphur levels which consequently increased air pollutant emissions.

Emissions, he said, introduced pollutants which directly and indirectly altered the quality of air and resulted in undesirable effects on man, animals, vegetation and materials.

He also said that limited transport planning and management in urban areas had resulted in inadequate provision of public transport, inadequate investment in infrastructure for motorised transport, non-motorised transport and pedestrian traffic.

This, Prof Wandiga said, reduced urban mobility options, increasing traffic congestion and air pollutant emissions.

Health experts say dirty air can cause lung damage as well as heart diseases, strokes and cancer.

Last year, the World Health Organisation estimated that one in eight deaths worldwide resulted from air pollution.

The UN health agency found that air pollution in African homes contributed to nearly 600 000 deaths in 2012.

Africa had the third highest level of deaths per capita from indoor air pollution of any region of the world, though it was still well behind the western Pacific region including China and South-East Asia.

WHO figures for deaths per capita from outdoor air pollution in Africa are still below the world average as lack of data is a major barrier.

Pollution monitoring is still minimal in Africa which faces numerous other problems. Lack of air pollution equipment, financial and human resources still affect air pollution control systems in Africa.

Only the WHO assesses outdoor pollution in Africa by drawing from satellite data, inventories of pollution sources, air current modelling and occasional ground monitoring.

In Zimbabwe, second-hand car imports gobbled US$469 million in 2014 alone despite a 2010 Government ban on the importation of vehicles older than five years to curb pollution.

According to the Zimbabwe Statistics Agency, more than 4 500 new vehicles were imported last year and these mainly included brands such as Toyota, Nissan, Isuzu and Mazda, all from Japan.

Imports from Europe comprised Land Rovers, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguars while Hyundai models were imported from South Korea in Asia.

Ford, Chevrolet, JeepChryslerDodge were imported from the United States.

Source : The Herald