Rwanda: Environment Ministry Pushes for Green Transport Initiatives

The Ministry of Environment has reiterated that reforms will have to be conducted so as to help commuters embrace the use of public transport buses instead of private cars and introduce electric vehicles in order to reduce air pollution by the transport sector.

While addressing the media during a news conference on Wednesday, Vincent Biruta, the Minister for Environment, said various feasibility studies were carried out to ensure green transport initiatives are implemented.

The plan, he said, is founded on the fact that emissions to air from road traffic is a major contributor to poor air quality across urban areas according to the inventory of air pollution sources in Kigali city.

By 2017, there were 191,015 registered vehicles in Rwanda, the study shows.

The world will celebrate World Environmental Day on 5th June under the theme 'Curbing air pollution'.

One of the activities during the 'environmental week', include a motor vehicle inspection campaign on Car-Free Day to raise awareness about how non-motorised transport could help reduce air pollution.

Biruta said that they are looking at all ways to reduce emissions from vehicles in the city considering what the study on source of air pollution has revealed.

"The first is to set up standards for each type of vehicle to set the acceptable levels of emissions. However, testing is not enough; we are going to devise measures to see how use of private vehicles can be reduced on the roads by promoting the use of big public transport buses," he said.

He said that the measure will go along with building infrastructure that reduce traffic jams since heavy congestion causes heavy vehicle emissions.

He added that experts have also initiated feasibility studies on the use of electric cars. If all goes well, electric motorcycles will have hit the roads by the end of this year.

"The study will be in the final stages this Environment Week. What we will need are in different categories; they include assessing if we have enough electricity, stations where they can be charged, their prices all which the study will show before launching them," he said.

The official said that, in collaboration with other partners, there is some progress so far.

"The Government is ready to support all such green initiatives through the Green Fund (FONERWA). We are also partnering with investors to introduce electric cars on the market for transporting people and goods," he noted.

Recently, Kigali city officials told parliament that feasibility studies on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system were being finalised and could be completed this year. The plan is to dedicate particular routes to big buses to reduce congestion.

The effects of air pollution in numbers

Citing UN reports, Biruta said that air pollution, including emissions from the transport sector, was the fourth-highest cause of deaths worldwide as it causes respiratory diseases, strokes, heart attacks and lung cancer diseases.

The air pollution challenge is also affecting Rwanda where, for instance, in 2012, more than 2,000 deaths were attributed to ambient air pollution.

Between 2012 and 2015 in Rwanda, the number of hospital admissions for acute respiratory infections in health centres across the country increased by almost double to more than 3.3 million

Data from WHO shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants.

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