WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY 2019

By Lorraine Dixon

World Environment Day is the biggest annual event for positive environmental action and takes place every 5thof June. The theme for this year is “AirPollution“.

What is Air Pollution?

Air pollution occurs when gases, dust particles, fumes (or smoke) or odour are introduced into the atmosphere in a way that makes it harmful to humans, animals and plant.This is because the air becomes dirty (contaminated or unclean). 

Where does it come from?

Air pollution can result from both human and natural actions. Natural events that pollute the air include forest fires, volcanic eruptions, wind erosion, pollen dispersal, evaporation of organic compounds and natural radioactivity. Human actions that pollute the air include Household combustion devices like jikos (cook stoves), motor vehicles, industrial facilities and forest fires are common sources of air pollution.

What are the Effects of Air Pollution?

The 2017 Kenya Economic Survey estimated that 19.9 million Kenyans suffer from respiratory ailments that are made worse by poor air quality. Over 5 million Kenyans living in major cities and towns are directly exposed to toxic emissions mainly from motor vehicles, industries, use of traditional fuels and kerosene used for cooking and heating. Indiscriminate burning of solid waste also causes air pollution. Air pollution causes death and increased illnesses such as respiratory ailments, heart conditions, brain damage and cancers. It is estimated that 14,300 Kenyans die annually due to conditions attributed to air pollution (Ministry of Environment, 2018). Pollution also affects plants and agricultural yields.

What is Kenya doing about it?

Kenya gazetted Air Quality Regulations in 2014 that specify air quality standards, as well as steps to be taken for “prevention, control and abatement” of air pollution in recognition of the terrible toll it takes on the health of Kenyans’ health.. However, there have been challenges with enforcing the regulations due to a lack of high-quality air quality monitoring data. 


What can I do about it?

  • Conserve energy – remember to turn off lights, computers, and electric appliances when not in use
  • Use energy efficient light bulbsand appliancessuch as energy saving jikos
  • Limit driving by carpooling, using public transportation, biking and walkingwhenever possible
  • Compost organic food items and recycle non-organic trash
  • Choose environmentally friendly cleaners
  • Use water-based or solvent free paints whenever possible and buy products that say “low VOC”
  • Seal containers of household cleaners, workshop chemicals and solvents, and garden chemicals to prevent volatile organic compounds from evaporating into the air

The focus of this year’s World Environment Day is to urge governments, industry, communities, and individuals to come together to explore renewable energy and green technologies, and improve air quality in cities and regions across the world. 

Join the campaign and help us create more awareness by participating in the #BeatAirPollution challenge. For more information please visit https://www.worldenvironmentday.global/get-involved/world-environment-day-mask-challenge

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Tourism and Climate Change

By Danson Imbwaga Matekwa

“The time is past when humankind thought it would selfishly draw on exhaustible resources. We know now that the world is not a commodity.”  Francoise Hollande, Former President of the French Republic.

Climate is a key resource for tourism and the sector is highly sensitive to the impacts of climate change and global warming, many elements of which are already being felt.  Tourism is estimated to be responsible for 5% of global CO2emissions. Threats for the sector are diverse, including direct and indirect impacts such as more extreme weather events, increasing insurance costs and safety concerns, water shortages, biodiversity loss and damage to assets and attractions at destinations, among others.Globally – all major coral reefs are expected to be severely degraded by 2050 and 32% risk die-off by 2050.

Photo credit: Africa Wildlife Foundation

Tourism development has grabbed the attention of policy makers and politicians in Africa in the quest to achieve greater economic development through employment creation and catalyzing other related industries such as agriculture. With tourism growth as an almost certainty, its share of environmental pollution will increase. Climate change remains a threat towards sustainability of the tourism sector in the continent. Particular issues of concern include negative environmental impacts on destinations that affect the quality of life for the host community.

Climate-change impacts that affect tourism in African countries include: beach erosion, saline intrusion, droughts, flash floods and landslides, coral-reef bleaching, less productive fisheries and agricultural systems, changes in the preferences of tourists, etc. Today, new tourist centers and cities are planned to make them more environmentally friendly and sustainable.

Kenya is facing climate change induced challenges, such as variation in weather patterns, unpredictable water levels in lakes and rivers, frequent and prolonged droughts and flash floods. 

Women fetch water from depleted Mara River Photo credit:Kiplagat, Standar

The country’s wild life and other tourist attractions, which are major contributors to the nation’s economy, are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. For example, flash floods associated with El Niño rains and their impact on infrastructure especially in Maasai Mara and Lake Nakuru; prolonged droughts in major national parks; the shifts in wildebeest migration in response to rain fall patterns; and melting of snow caps on Mount Kenya due to increases in temperature. 

With tourism contributing to 9.7% of GDP and 9% of total employment in the country in 2018, it is imperative for swift and tangible action to address the climate change challenge to avoid major losses. For the sustenance and further development of tourism, it is important that climate change is address holistically through favorable policies for mitigation and adaptation action on the ground.