Background information on air quality in Zambia

Zambia area coverage is 755,000 km2 of relatively flat land mass with a population density of 16 to a km2. An inadequate and poorly maintained infrastructure is a major issue. Road coverage countrywide is low and many areas other than provincial and district centres are not accessible throughout the year. For the most part safe and reliable transportation on many of the country's roads is nonexistent.


Specifically, the major challenges are;

(i) Inadequate and ineffective policing of highways and other roads resulting in avoidable accidents.

(ii) Poor road network and traffic flow management in urban centres resulting in congestion

(iii) Most vehicles on the roads are very old with high emissions causing pollution

(iv) Wanton destruction and vandalisation of road infrastructure leading to poor safety

(v) Alcoholism and poor driver conduct leading to trauma and fatalities

(vi) Completion cycle for major infrastructure takes too long (case in point is Livingstone Zimba road) in southern Province.

(vii) Some major infrastructure installed on highways such as side barriers not adequately tested

Air quality management

Most air quality problems in Zambia exist in the capital, Lusaka, and the Copper Belt Province around the city of Kitwe. Air quality monitoring of SO2 and NO2 using diffusive monitors was performed in the late 1990s by NILU but discontinued. A routine air quality monitoring network and studies of air quality and health do not exist.

SO2 concentrations are of major concern in the Copper Belt since copper smelters, cobalt plant and foundries are still operating on obsolete technologies without efficient stack-gas-cleaning facilities. Mining, quarrying, lime manufacture and a cement plant are other sources which also may cause PM air concentrations although monitoring of this compound has not been performed.  Monitored NO2 concentrations comply with Zambian guideline values and are not considered to be of concern.

Emissions from industries such as breweries and fertilizer plants, domestic waste burning, tailing dumps, forest fires and increasing vehicular emissions may also contribute to air pollution in the Copper Belt area but their contribution is unknown.

Zambia has promulgated the Environment Protection and Pollution Control Act and its Statutory Instrument with ambient air quality guidelines. Outdoor air quality monitoring is not required in the law. With respect to vehicular emissions Zambia has set fuel specifications for petrol and diesel. 

Integrated AQM is lacking in Zambia. Air pollution monitoring in Zambia is limited to patchy measurements in the Copper Belt Province. While it is known that SO2 concentrations are high in the vicinity of the smelters not much action has been taken to implement control measures. The impacts of SO2 on human health and the environment has been suggested but not quantitatively assessed. PM concentrations are also unknown.

The private sector, NGOs such as “Citizens for a Better Environment”, the general public and the ECZ have made some progress to better AQM.

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