When will KCCA wake up to the pollution danger?
There are many problems that need to be solved in the capital; city of Kampala. Understandably, many of these require considerable resources, which are in short supply. Obviously, the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) doesn’t have all the money it needs for funding different programmes. But nor does it have all the time to implement all programmes in say, a five-year planning cycle.
So the implementation of different vital programmes is planned for different times, and hopefully in logical sequence, and also in consultation with other related stakeholders.
Public mobility is one of the biggest issues that an urban authority must handle; it is probably the biggest responsibility. For as long as most Ugandans remember, KCCA and its precursor KCC have always been engaging with rag-tag bodies like UTODA, rag-tag but powerful because of the importance of the sector they operate in.
Today, KCCA has left the even more confused boda-boda phenomenon alone, and the vacuum of sanitizing it has fallen private concerns like safe-boda to deal with, and exploit.
But while KCCA maybe indecisive or slow in taking full charge of regulating public transport, the cruel hand of pollution is gathering momentum in damaging public health. Respiratory –related health problems are already with us and with time, they may explode into a major obvious concern and then donor projects will spring up all over the place, blowing the national debt out of control.
Today, the terribly inefficient public transport of Kampala is not only wasting everybody’s time and scarce resources in importing the fuel, it is a major polluter because of the many vehicles that spend hours locked in the traffic jam that lasts the whole day in most areas of the city.
Worse still, the huge amount of fuel that ends up carbon fumes is also dirty fuel, not refined to the standards of say, the European Union markets. So while the carbon emissions go out and perform our ‘contribution’ to global warming and climate change, the Sulphur impurities work on our health directly, and only time will tell when the medical issues will get out of control.
The good news is that KCCA can do something without suffering budgetary implications to reduce on the dirty emissions that are poisoning its people. The Authority can start by controlling the number of vehicles that use diesel and petrol. Now that Electrical Vehicle technology is getting widespread, there is little reason why KCCA allows the continued use of fuel combustion engine vehicles for public transport.
It is not practicable to address private cars yet, since an individual may not be readily in position to switch to an electric car, and in any case the charging process is yet to be established as a network around the city. There should also be a policy from Uganda Revenue Authority and probably parliament on private electric vehicles.
But the EV era is here and all major auto manufacturers have issued their timelines for stopping the manufacture of fuel engine vehicles. Uganda should not therefore act like it is on another planet. And KCCA in particular should lead the way not only because it has the biggest problem of congestion and pollution, but also because the largest concentration of people who use motorized mobility is in Greater Kampala and what happens in the city will eventually guide or mislead the rest of the country.
But again KCCA does not have to look only outside the country for inspiration. In Arua and West Nile, the private sector has already started deploying electric mobility methods. Electrically powered Boda-boda have been in operation in Arua for over a year, so we are not talking science fiction here, but reality.
Uganda government, under which KCCA operates, has already launched its initiative of making electric vehicles in Uganda. The government’s Kiira Motors Corporation, working with the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces has started producing electric buses, which are a starting point in addressing Kampala’s congestion problem with the attendant pollution that is affecting our health.
KCCA is aware of the state of Kampala’s air, ranked as the dirtiest in African capitals, thanks to the largest extent to our old vehicles and dirty fuel. The Authority can embrace the solution that government has dropped into its lap via KMC and UPDF, and start a phased banning of diesel and petrol public service vehicles.
The country cannot pretend not to be aware of what is happening in the automative industry. Countries like the USA, China and India have embraced EV technology wholeheartedly and Uganda should deal with them to transfer electric technology for it transport sector. But again Uganda needs to break from the unfortunate tradition of consuming what it doesn’t produce and producing what it cannot consume.
After demonstrating that the country can produce its EVs where one unit of clean energy Kayoola EV carries passengers that require seven pollutive kamunye minibuses, it would be disastrous to keep importing fuel combustion vehicles for public transport.