live AQI index
|Air pollution level||Air quality index||Main pollutant|
|Moderate|| 99* US AQI||PM2.5|
PM2.5 concentration in Kampala is currently 7 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value
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| Sensitive groups should reduce outdoor exercise|
Moderate 99 US AQI
|Thursday, Feb 9|
Moderate 87 US AQI
|Friday, Feb 10|
Moderate 80 US AQI
|Saturday, Feb 11|
Moderate 70 US AQI
|Sunday, Feb 12|
Moderate 70 US AQI
|Monday, Feb 13|
Moderate 77 US AQI
|Tuesday, Feb 14|
Moderate 96 US AQI
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Kampala is a city located in Uganda, holding the title of both capital and largest city in the country, with some 6.7 million inhabitants. Kampala is regarded to be one of the fastest growing cities in the African continent, with a high yearly population growth rate. Alongside this, it has made a widescale move towards heavy urbanization, industrialization and other economic developments in the last few decades and more prominently so in recent times, classed as one of the best emerging cities in East Africa to live in.
Looking at the pollution levels currently on record, as one would expect from a city that is undergoing such rapid growth across all areas, there are less than appreciable readings of pollution present. In 2019, Kampala was shown to have a yearly PM2.5 average of 29.1 μg/m³, a reading that would place it in the higher end of the ‘moderate’ pollution bracket. This requires a PM2.5 reading anywhere between 12.1 to 35.4 μg/m³ to be classified as such, and denotes that Kampala has some prominent air pollution issues occurring, with certain months seeing considerable spikes in pollution readings, with reasons that will be discussed in short. This PM2.5 reading of 29.1 μg/m³ placed Kampala in 465th place out of all cities ranked worldwide, a high ranking that will need to be brought down as the city makes its way into a well developed future, for the wellbeing of its inhabitants as well as the ecosystems and land.
As with many cities undergoing such rapid growth, alongside associated geographical and meteorological conditions, Kampala is subject to a wide variety of different pollution sources, some of them having been present for a considerable amount of time as well as many novel sources. One of the more prominent causes would be industrial pollution, with many factories, power plants and industrial zones giving out massive amounts of pollution, alongside a plethora of new ones popping up around the city to assist in providing power to its growing population.
These factories and related areas often rely heavily on coal for their power, the burning of which can release large amounts of chemical pollution and fine matter. Other similar sources are vehicular emissions, with many outdated and aged vehicles being utilized on the roads due to a lack of stringent road and motor regulations. Another source is that of garbage burning, or open waste disposal, which can introduce a dangerous amount of pollutants into the air via the combustion of both organic material as well as synthetic ones. The use of firewood and charcoal for cooking in households is also a major contributor, with all of these aforementioned factors coming together to create the highly elevated pollution levels seen in Kampala throughout the year.
Observing the data taken over the course of 2019 as an indicator of Kampala’s worsening pollution levels, it becomes apparent that there are several months out of the year that have higher PM2.5 readings than the rest of the year does. Whilst these are not as clear cut as many other countries around the world (with many cities having a distinct high and low pollution season), the months that stood out as the most polluted were February, July and August, all of which came in with PM2.5 readings of 36.9 μg/m³, 39.9 μg/m³ and 37.4 μg/m³ respectively.
This shows that Kampala does not have a particular pattern to its air quality levels, and thus may be at the mercy of sporadic changes and fluctuations in its PM2.5 count. With those numbers in mind, Kampala’s most polluted reading was 39.9 μg/m³, a number which placed it into the ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ bracket over the month of July, a group ranking that requires a reading of 35.5 to 55.4 μg/m³ to be classified as such.
Some of the main types of pollution found in Kampala would be ones such as black carbon and volatile organic compounds (VOC's), both of which find their origin from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels as well as organic matter, and as such can find their origin in car engines, factories as well as open burn sites and homes. Black carbon is a major component in soot and is a potent carcinogen when inhaled, often found coating areas that see a high volume of traffic such as busy intersections.
Some examples of the previously mentioned VOC's are chemicals such as benzene, toluene, xylene and methylene chloride, all of which are hazardous to human health and can arise from many different sources, adding to their prevalence in the air. Fine particulate matter such as road dust and finely ground silica or concrete can also have devastating effects when not kept in check, with many poorly maintained or unpaved roads as well as construction sites all leaking vast amounts of these fine particles. Cars can release large amounts of chemical compounds such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) as well as sulfur dioxide (SO2).
With data available from the last few years, these readings can be compared to the more recent numbers taken. In 2017, Kampala came in with a PM2.5 average of 54.3 μg/m³, a massive reading that would have put it into the top most polluted cities of the world at that period in time. This was followed in 2018 by a reading of 40.8 μg/m³, a considerably improved reading but still very much high and presenting a hazard to its citizens. In the most recent reading available, as was mentioned 2019 came in with its PM2.5 reading of 29.1 μg/m³. This represents a significant improvement, and whilst it still has a way to go in order to make its pollution levels safer for its inhabitants, there has been a considerable improvement made over the course of the last few years. If this is to be kept up, then Kampala can improve its worldwide rankings even further and move itself to a more appreciable level of air quality.