The main sources of air pollution in southern Africa include industry (thermal power stations, smelters, cement factories, chemical factories), forest /savannah fires, biomass burning, (use of firewood and charcoal), waste burning and transportation emissions. Air pollution is linked to a number of human health and environmental impacts including respiratory diseases, heavy metals poisoning, and affects to lakes by increasing levels of acidity or nutrients, which affect water quality and aquatic biodiversity.
The Air Pollution Information Network for Africa (APINA) is a key driver of the regional air pollution policy process within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. Specifically, this network was formed to addresses issues related to air pollution in Africa and to co-ordinate follow-up to the 1998 Harare Resolution on Prevention and Control of Regional Air Pollution in Southern Africa and its Likely Transboundary Effects.
The Regional Policy Framework on Air Pollution developed by the United Nations Environment Programme was adopted in Lusaka, Zambia in March 2008 and recognises the importance of the following:
Air pollution takes a high toll on the health, environment and economies of African countries;
More than 50% of all trips are non-motorised and mainly on foot, combined with inadequate public transportation and poor urban planning African roads are the world’s most dangerous;
Increasing emissions of SO2, NO2, particulate matter and heavy metal emissions from the industry and power generation sectors;
Ammonia emissions from the agricultural sector have an impact on human health;
Open burning contribute to environmental and health effects; and
Indoor cooking with solid fuels leads to high exposure of particulate matter to women and children.
Fuelwood is one of many examples of poverty-driven environmental degradation in the region. As repeatedly emphasised in the 1994 State of the Environment in Southern Africa Report, the poor urban and rural majority rely almost entirely on fuelwood for cooking and heating, creating a demand and situation that is unsustainable. The fuelwood issue remains important because it is linked to many other environmental problems such as deforestation and soil degradation.
Resolutions, Protocols and Conventions
A number of agreements have been signed committing Member States to improved air quality. By signing The Dakar Declaration on the Phasing-out of Leaded Gasoline in Sub-Saharan Africa (2001) representatives from 25 Sub-Saharan African countries agreed to phase out leaded gasoline in all Sub-Sahara Africa countries by 2005 at the latest.
The 1998 Harare Resolution initiated the development of the SADC Protocol on Regional Air Quality and Atmospheric Emissions. As part of the development of the Protocol country status reports on air pollution have been completed for six of the Member States: Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Furthermore, at the global level, all SADC Member States are parties to various Multilateral Environmental Agreements including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the 1999 Basel Convention and the 1994 Bamako Convention.