Photo by Ninno JackJr on Unsplash

Air Pollution in Kampala, Uganda

If no concrete action is taken soon, the capital of the Pearl of Africa will become almost inhabitable in a few decades from now.

Story by Anna Adima
Uganda, Eastern Africa
Published on May 2, 2020

Reading time: 4 minutes

This story is also available in de es it tr



Like most people living and moving about in my home town of Kampala, Uganda (where I am currently based for my PhD fieldwork), I breathe in more than my allotted daily share of a toxic combination of dust, car exhaust fumes, and industry smoke that make up the city’s air pollution.

Kampala is the capital of Uganda, and with its annual growth rate of 4.03% and population of 1.6 million, is one of the world’s fastest growing cities. The combination of industry growth and urbanisation are accompanied by increased numbers of vehicles: approximately 50,000 – which include cars, buses, trucks, and motorcycle taxis – move about in the streets of Kampala. Many of these are old and not designed with the environment in mind, and, along with hazardous industry waste, contribute to the city’s air pollution crisis. Other toxic waste also stems from waste burning and indoor air pollution within households, where wood or charcoal stoves are used for cooking.

Kampala is the second most polluted city in Africa (preceded by Kano, Nigeria): with its PM 2.5 (particulate matter pollutants that are 2.5 microns in size, and with the most dangerous health impact of all air pollutants) pollution at an average of 40.8 µg/m³ in 2018, this is well above the World Health Organisation’s recommended target of 10 µg/m³. The effects of these different forms of air pollution can be felt across Kampala on a daily basis. When I find myself on higher ground on one of the city’s seven hills, a thick cloud of smog can be seen hanging over and choking Kampala. Being stuck in the city’s harrowing traffic means exposure to the lethal exhaust fumes produced by the surrounding vehicles. Outdoor movement can be dangerous: the biggest risk posed to walking, cycling, or running once used to be being hit by a vehicle, or being assaulted – this now comes with the perils of breathing in hazardous air (and it is for this reason I choose to exercise indoors here). Unsurprisingly, respiratory health issues are also on the rise here, as the number of deaths linked to air pollution in Uganda in 2017 was at 13,000.

Local news demonstrates an awareness of the dangers of air pollution across Kampala and Uganda. Various news outlets call for action, with academics and the Kampala Capital City Authority making efforts to educate the public about the poison they are inhaling. In 2018, the Ugandan government passed a law banning the import of cars older than 15 years, with the aim of reducing pollution in the country, and owners of cars older that five years are required to pay an environmental tax.  

But is this enough to combat air pollution? Walking and using public transport in Uganda, associated with working classes, are often looked down upon by the haves the city. Public transport is also not necessarily the safest – or the most reliable – means of transport, and women especially are more vulnerable to harassment and assault using them (It is sad that many women in my acquaintance have experienced this). A two-fold shift is required: one that makes public transport safer, more accessible, and inclusive of marginalised individuals in the urban space, as well as a change in the mentality that public transport is solely the reserve of the poor.

Of course, these are only small solutions to a very large problem. But if no concrete action is taken soon, the capital of the Pearl of Africa will become almost inhabitable in a few decades from now.


How does this story make you feel?

Follow us on Social Media

Talk about this Story

Please enable cookies to view the comments powered by Disqus.

Subscribe to our Monthly Newsletter

Stay up to date with new stories on Correspondents of the World by subscribing to our monthly newsletter:

* indicates required

Anna Adima

Anna Adima

Of German-Ugandan heritage, Anna is a PhD student at the University of York in the UK, where she is researching East African History. She is particularly interested in women’s history, heritage preservation, and issues surrounding race and feminism. With stints in Mwanza, The Hague, Toulouse, London, and Nairobi – in between returning to her ‘passport countries’ – Anna is privileged to have called different places around the world home. When she is not covered in dust looking at old documents in historical archives, Anna enjoys drinking coffee, swimming, and can often be found curled up in her favourite spot on the couch reading a book. She tweets @anna_adima.

Topic: Environment

> Colombia
Recycling in Bogota and Moscow: An Unrecognized Necessity

A story by Juan Manuel David Rodriguez

At my home we do not see recycling only as a necessity for our society, but also as an opportunity and a way to survive. A form of surviving that in countries like Colombia, is still precarious and little understood by a particular classist society like ours, where the primary link of the productive chain, the recycler or waste collector represents for many a symbol of poverty.

> Read More


> Indonesia
When Your Country is a Case Study: Being an Indonesian Environmentalist at Yale

A story by Brurce Mecca

My experience and knowledge, and the experiences of all minorities, matter, even when those perspectives feel insignificant because of all the extra effort to make people understand.

> Read More


> Iran
My Relation to Water, Snow and Drought

A story by Mani Nouri

Time is ticking, and we must do anything in our hands to save water, the very source of life.

> Read More


Get involved

At Correspondents of the World, we want to contribute to a better understanding of one another in a world that seems to get smaller by the day - but somehow neglects to bring people closer together as well. We think that one of the most frequent reasons for misunderstanding and unnecessarily heated debates is that we don't really understand how each of us is affected differently by global issues.

Our aim is to change that with every personal story we share.

Share Your Story

Community Worldwide

Correspondents of the World is not just this website, but also a great community of people from all over the world. While face-to-face meetings are difficult at the moment, our Facebook Community Group is THE place to be to meet other people invested in Correspondents of the World. We are currently running a series of online-tea talks to get to know each other better.

Join Our Community

EXPLORE TOPIC Environment

> Iran
My Relation to Water, Snow and Drought

A story by Mani Nouri

Time is ticking, and we must do anything in our hands to save water, the very source of life.

> Read More

Or read it in de it

> Colombia
Recycling in Bogota and Moscow: An Unrecognized Necessity

A story by Juan Manuel David Rodriguez

At my home we do not see recycling only as a necessity for our society, but also as an opportunity and a way to survive. A form of surviving that in countries like Colombia, is still precarious and little understood by a particular classist society like ours, where the primary link of the productive chain, the recycler or waste collector represents for many a symbol of poverty.

> Read More

Or read it in de es tr

> Indonesia
When Your Country is a Case Study: Being an Indonesian Environmentalist at Yale

A story by Brurce Mecca

My experience and knowledge, and the experiences of all minorities, matter, even when those perspectives feel insignificant because of all the extra effort to make people understand.

> Read More

Or read it in de id

> United States
California’s Other Pandemic

A story by Elspeth Mathau

We had wildfire evacuation warnings when I was a child, but the threat is now so severe that we packed bags with whichever mementos and essential items we could fit in our car, to prepare to flee if conditions worsened.

> Read More

Or read it in de es

> United States
Connecting through Food

A story by Sidra Kennedy

Food bonds people together. Studying abroad in Tecpan, Guatemala, I encounter an emphasis on home-cooked meals and local foods that I never experienced in the United States.

> Read More

Or read it in de es it kr tr

> United States
Fire, Flood and Fury: Voting for the Climate

A story by Melaina Dyck

I am in the first generation to grow up in the climate crisis. My environmentalist journey began with fire.

> Read More

Or read it in de ru tr

Global Issues Through Local Eyes

We are Correspondents of the World, an online platform where people from all over the world share their personal stories in relation to global development. We try to collect stories from people of all ages and genders, people with different social and religious backgrounds and people with all kinds of political opinions in order to get a fuller picture of what is going on behind the big news.

Our Correspondents

At Correspondents of the World we invite everyone to share their own story. This means we don't have professional writers or skilled interviewers. We believe that this approach offers a whole new perspective on topics we normally only read about in the news - if at all. And in case you wondered: Everyone includes you as well. Do you have a story to share? Reach out to us and let us know!

Share Your Story

Our Community

Although we just started a few months ago, we already have a great community of people from all over the world. While face-to-face meetings are difficult at the moment, our Facebook Community Group is THE place to be to meet other people invested in Correspondents of the World. We are currently running a series of online-tea talks to get to know each other better.

Join Our Community

Vision

At Correspondents of the World, we want to contribute to a better understanding of one another in a world that seems to get smaller by the day - but somehow neglects to bring people closer together as well. We think that one of the most frequent reasons for misunderstanding and unnecessarily heated debates is that we don't really understand how each of us is affected differently by global issues.

Our aim is to change that with every personal story we share.

Topics

We believe in quality over quantity. To start off with, we collect personal stories that relate to our correspondents' experiences with five global topics:

Environment

Discussions about the environment often center on grim, impersonal figures. Among the numbers and warnings, it is easy to forget that all of these statistics actually also affect us - in very different ways. We believe that in order to understand the immensity of environmental topics and global climate change, we need the personal stories of our correspondents.

Gender

Gender is the assumption of a "normal". Unmet expectations of what is normal are a world-wide cause for violence. We hope that the stories of our correspondents will help us to better understand the effects of global developments related to gender and sexuality, and to reveal outdated concepts that have been reinforced for centuries.

Migration

Our correspondents write about migration because it is a deeply personal topic that is often dehumanized. People quickly become foreigners, refugees - a "they". But: we have always been migrating, and we always will. For millions of different reasons. By sharing personal stories about migration, we hope to re-humanize this global topic.

Liberation

We want to support the demand for justice by spotlighting the personal stories of people who seek liberation in all its different forms. Our correspondents share their individual experiences in creating equality. We hope that for some this will be an encouragement to continue their own struggle against inequality and oppression - and for some an encouragement to get involved.

Corona Virus

2020 is a year different from others before - not least because of the Corona pandemic. The worldwide spread of a highly contagious virus is something that affects all of us in very different ways. To get a better picture of how the pandemic's plethora of explicit and implicit consequences influences our everyday life, we share lockdown stories from correspondents all over the world.

Get Involved

We believe that every single personal story contributes to a better understanding of the complex world we live in - and the people we share it with. That includes yours! We would be really happy if you would like to share your story, too, and join our community.

Share Your Story

Growing Fast

Although we started just over a year ago, Correspondents of the World has a quickly growing community of correspondents - and a dedicated team of editors, translators and country managers.

52

Correspondents

63

Stories

38

Countries

127

Translations

Contact

Correspondents of the World is as much a community as an online platform. Please feel free to contact us for whatever reason!

Message Us

Message on WhatsApp

Call Us

Joost: +31 6 30273938