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Parliamentarians draw on science to develop air quality management frameworks for Nairobi

Air pollution is increasingly becoming a major challenge in African cities, including Nairobi, the bustling capital of Kenya with an estimated population of 4.4 million, where residents are exposed to pollution with significant health risks. SEI is part of a consortium working with Nairobi City County (NCC) authorities, including the Nairobi City County Government (NCCG), Nairobi City County Assembly (NCCA) and Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS), to develop a suite of policy instruments for air quality management informed by scientific assessments and monitoring of air quality by researchers from SEI and its partners.

Philip Osano, Lawrence Nzuve, Romanus Opiyo / Published on 7 September 2021
Parliamentarians from the Nairobi City County parliament pose for a group photo at an air quality legislation retreat in Mombasa, Kenya

Parliamentarians from the NCCA pose for a group photo at an air quality legislation retreat in Mombasa, Kenya. Photo: Lawrence Nzuve / SEI.

Aderianah and MCAs

Former SEI Africa Research Fellow Dr Andriannah Mbandi, now at UNEP, presenting to NCCG parliamentarians on air quality legislation.
Photo: Lawrence Nzuve / SEI.

With support from SEI Africa and the United Nations Environment Programme Regional Office for Africa (UNEP ROA), the county has made progress and developed the NCC Air Quality Policy, which was adopted by the county assembly as Sessional Paper No. 2, and an Air Quality Bill, which, once adopted, will be followed by Air Quality Regulations.

In May and June 2021, SEI Africa and UNEP ROA organized sensitization workshops for parliamentarians from NCCA’s Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, NCCG and NMS to review the draft air quality legal and policy instruments. The workshops were held in Mombasa and Nairobi and included the participation of representatives from other technical institutions, national transport and energy sector agencies and academics from local universities.

Lawrence Mwangi

Lawrence Mwangi, Deputy Director of Environment of NCC, presents to parliamentarians on air quality legislation. Photo: Lawrence Nzuve / SEI.

Engagement with parliamentarians is a core part of SEI Africa’s approach to support decision-making and changing agendas based on the latest available scientific knowledge and evidence. It is part of SEI’s efforts to advance science policy dialogue with the legislative arm of governments through scientific advice to strengthen and equip parliamentarians and parliamentary staff with knowledge and skills to promote evidence-based policy processes in the legislature.

During the workshop, the parliamentarians were enthusiastic and committed and had a deep interest in the scientific information and the value it brings to parliament and the legislative process. Speaker of the NCCA Hon. Benson Mutura was particularly immersed in the sensitization workshop and noted that county parliamentarians have been empowered to debate air pollution and climate change matters from a scientifically informed perspective, although they still must balance the proposed actions based on the needs of their constituents.

Speaker Mutura

NCCA Speaker Benson Mutura comments on presentations regarding the air quality legislation for parliamentarians during a retreat at the coastal city of Mombasa. Photo: Lawrence Nzuve / SEI.

“It has been a learning process for us, and I believe that this is one of the areas that has been neglected for long,” said Mutura. “I used to assume that the issue of pollution is not a big deal, but when we engaged with you, I was quite happy. There is a lot we need to learn and that is why we are back here. We also want to be your ambassadors so that we can articulate issues and that when we discuss with our fellow citizens, they can see what needs to be done. When we have information, it becomes very easy to convince other people.”

Mutura expressed his commitment to make the air quality legislative process a success in the NCCA. He emphasized that the process will not only benefit the current generation, but also future generations in Nairobi, referring to it as “a legacy”.

Waithera Chege

The catalyst for a motion on air quality, NCCA Elected Member Waithera Chege reacts to a comment from the participants at the workshop. Photo: Lawrence Nzuve / SEI.

“Nairobi cannot wait any longer,” added Hon. Larry Wambua, County Executive Committee Member on Environment and Natural Resources at the NCCG, in his  remarks. “We are the people to make that change.”

Hon. Waithera Chege, the NCCA Elected Member who spearheaded the Air Quality Bill, articulated the linkages of the bill to national legal frameworks such as the air quality regulations under the Environment Management and Coordination Act, as well as grassroots actions by residents to tackle air pollution emanating from industrial sources. Chege emphasized the importance of public participation during the process and requested the speaker and NCCA members prioritize the approval of the bill by the NCCA.

The workshop sessions were interactive, providing a platform to share knowledge amongst the participants through active discussions on the review process of the bill. Key sectors to consider for emissions reduction include transport, waste management, industry and energy. In a bid to reduce air pollution in Nairobi, budgeting and financial planning, including the equipment for air quality monitoring, are crucial components to be considered. In addition, mapping air pollution hotspots is important to provide actual evidence that can be used to support compliance and enforcement actions by the concerned authorities.

Larry Wambua

County Executive Committee Member on Environment and Natural Resources at the NCCG, Hon. Larry Wambua listens keenly to a presentation. “We are the people to make the change”, he said. Photo: Lawrence Nzuve / SEI

The workshop strove to lay out the legislative framework of air quality management for NCC, introduce, discuss and agree on the key elements of the Nairobi Draft Air Quality Bill, develop a road map and strategy to guide the finalization and adoption of the Nairobi Air Quality Bill and to sensitize the participants on the financial budgeting for an air quality unit to support the realization of the implementation of the bill once it is enacted. The ensuing discussion at the workshop resulted in the top leadership of the NCCA agreeing to the process, with both the minority leader and whip assuring the team of their commitment to support the draft wholeheartedly, as well as its implementation.

“The science we do is supposed to help with and contribute to decision-making and for me, this is the most exciting part of my work when I see information and knowledge contributing to actual decisions by policymakers,” said SEI Africa Centre Director Dr Philip Osano, committing to continue supporting the parliamentary legal unit and technical team as they further refine the draft bill and later, the regulations.

The technical team comprises legal counsel from the NCCA and experts from NCCG, NMS, UNEP ROA, the National Transport and Safety Authority, Strathmore University, C40 Cities, Regional Center for Mapping and Resource Development, Environmental Compliance Institute and SEI.

Philip Osano SEI

SEI Africa Centre Director Dr Philip Osano said information and knowledge contribute to actual decisions by policymakers. Photo: Lawrence Nzuve / SEI.

Written by

Philip Osano
Philip Osano

Centre Director

SEI Africa

Lawrence Nzuve

Communications Coordinator


SEI Africa

Romanus Opiyo
Romanus Opiyo

Programme Leader

SEI Africa


Andriannah Mbandi

SEI Affiliated Researcher

SEI York

Topics and subtopics
Air : Cities, Pollution
Related centres
SEI Africa

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