"Jinja is an industrial town, we have over 70 industries", said Ernest Nabihamba, the senior Environment Officer Jinja City. "Every day, you will see billows of smoke in the air in our city". According to Nabihamba, Jinja has a population of over 300,000 people and only 10% is involved in agriculture the rest of the population is involved in formal and informal trade. "Most people work in the industries".
Jinja City ©Makerere University
Agro-processing and manufacturing industries like wood industry, soap factory, mining and quarrying, leather industry, construction industries as well as road construction activities have made Jinja their home employing thousands of residents. However, this industrialization comes with the unseen danger of air pollution.
"Air pollution is threatening the health of our residents" Nabihamba said. "“The industries emit smoke polluting the air. We receive complaints from the residents regularly over the foul smell in the air and poor waste management. An even bigger danger is that the city does not have the capacity to detect the levels of air pollution. We do not have the ability to know the levels of air pollution. We work on the assumption that the air is polluted, and therefore cannot put the industries to the task."
To ensure Jinja residents have access to hyperlocal, timely relevant, and actionable air quality information, AirQo, an air quality monitoring initiative will deploy low-cost air quality monitors in the city. The initiative funded by Belgium through the Wehubit programme implemented by Enabel will see the city install a dense network of solar-powered air quality monitors to help quantify the air pollution in the city and help residents and local leaders make informed decisions to improve the air quality.
"Air pollution is not often perceived as an important agenda in most of our cities. At present lack of data means no awareness of air pollution and its effects on health. Residents are not able to advocate for cleaner air in their city. Similarly, authorities and leaders, are unaware of or have no evidence to take measures to improve air quality in the city". Engineer Bainomugisha , the Project Lead at AirQO noted : "we will provide an App where Jinja residents will have access to real-time, historical forecast air quality data that they can use to advocate for better protective measures from their leaders. Schools will be able to incorporate real-time air quality data in their air pollution lesson plans while policymakers will have access to custom analytic dashboards that will help them make informed decisions on air quality".
Mr. Nabihamba has welcomed the initiative noting that the presence of air quality monitors will ensure that the Jinja city leaders have access to accurate air quality data that will help them make informed decisions. "The monitors will inform us of the magnitude of air pollution. We will use the data to plan, enforce compliance, and put in place mitigation efforts."
Ernest Nabihamba, the senior Environment Officer Jinja City ©Makerere University