Last Updated
Friday 21 November 2014, 15:04 pm.
Gaborone's pollution peaks in winter - UB Professor

Gaborone, and probably the whole of Botswana, has its air pollution particles more concentrated from the month of May.
By Staff Writer Sat 22 Nov 2014, 17:01 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Gaborone's pollution peaks in winter - UB Professor








The concentration thins out through August and September as seasons change from winter to autumn. This has been the pattern for a decade now.

This emerged in an interview with Professor Tej Singh Verma, an Environmental Physics lecturer at the University of Botswana (UB).

Prof Verma said this is attributable to the fact that winter is dry and veldt fires, for example, accidentally start, thus raising pollution levels. Imported second had vehicles are also contributing to environmental pollution, he observed.

The UB don says although his apparatus are in Gaborone, he has reason to believe that the same thing happens throughout the country as the winter season is experienced everywhere. There might be some slight differences from one district to another depending on the location's environment.  

"A lot of people use a lot of fire wood, paraffin and even animal dung to cook, and warm themselves and their houses in winter. Even with your eyes you can see that there is a lot of smoke from these sources of energy.

Another reason is the alarming rate at which the population of vehicles keep on rising in this country. There is a lot of importation, especially of Japanese cheap used vehicles, most of which are not properly maintained after being bought," he said, adding that the problem with these vehicles is that they are not tested to find out whether they will not emit a lot of green house gases.

Verma recalled that in 2006 the government passed an anti-leaded petrol legislation, but to his amazement the petrol is still being sold at filling stations throughout the country. Lead also contributes to a lot of pollution.

He suggested that there should be a legislation that dictates that cars should undergo pollution tests and be granted test certificates before being used on the country's roads. From there the police and transport officers should put up regular and occasional test points to ensure that the vehicles' conditions are maintained. Asked whether that would not be laborious and costly for a cash-strapped government department, he said for the wellness of the environment and nation, action needed to be taken despite the cost. Or alternatively the importation of these vehicles should be stopped.

But in a snap survey, dealers in second-hand vehicles had different views altogether. The Managing Director of Wheels Motors in Mogoditshane, Abdul Cassim said, "Tell that UB professor that the cars we sell cannot be singled out as contributors in green house gas emissions or pollution. These cars are not being dumped here. Some of them have been used two or three years. People there sold them because of financial constraints or other valid reasons. Remember that those countries - Japan and Singapore - are green countries. So cars there are perfectly maintained."

Verma added that even they as dealers ensure that they give quality to their customers. They cannot spend large amounts of US Dollars (the exact amount which he could not disclose) on things that will harm the environment.

They also create employment for the locals as they currently employ five to six of them against only three foreigners. He said with the suggestion that Law enforcing agencies should put up regular occasional check points was just addition to the already existing practice. They are already required to take the cars for road-worthiness before they are driven on Botswana roads.

Other dealers in Faruk Boy-Boy Kablay and Mazahir Mazahir of Abbasi Motors and Multi Auto companies respectively echoed his sentiments.

"Ninety-eight percent of our cars do not cause pollution. These cars are from developed countries and come here in very good condition. Maintenance of these vehicles is cheap and thus affordable.

As we bring cars here Motovac brings spare parts. It is these local cars mostly that emit polluting gases. If you stop importing these vehicles how are poorer people going to buy themselves cars?" asked Kablay.

"Before the car is bought it is the practice, under the Road Transport Act 18:13 of 1975, that it should be taken to the Department of Road Transport and Safety (DRTS) for a road-worthiness test and given a certificate. After our customers have bought the vehicles, we allow them to take them for a road test. We keep the other copy of the certificate and give them the white duplicate. So the cars are really in a good condition," said Mahazir.

He further explained that the cars have spare parts here in Botswana, hence maintainable. He, therefore, finds it disturbing to learn of complaints about vehicles polluting the environment.

Dineo, a motorist who was found test-driving her new imported Yaris car, dismissed the UB professor's suggestion as 'nonsense'.

"Our government is merciful enough to have allowed these vehicles into the country. Everyone can now afford a vehicle if they are serious. The hustles with commuting are unbearable to some of us. So that professor should know that even those of us who do not have lots of money need cars," she said with a great sense of justification.

Asked whether she was not aware that some of the imported cars smoke a lot and are putting the environment and the people's lives in danger, she responded: "Who said other cars that are not 'fonkons' do not emit smoke?

Why should the poor people's property be the one to be blamed for everything every time? Hey, you cannot tell me that our government overlooked problems these vehicles could cause. There are road-worthiness procedures that are followed when these are brought here.

We are given copies of road-worthiness certificates when we buy these vehicles. In fact, some of these imports are newer than your locals. Look it was doing 8, 000kms when I bought it.

Go to that local and see the 25 - 30, 000 km or even more it has done. Which is newer? 

As for Mogomotsi, a resident of Mogoditshane, nothing should bother those who intend taking advantage of the present give-away prices of cars.

"Those who have money will always criticise us so as to discourage us. I heard one of the ministers the year before, saying they were going to terminate the importation of these cars. I do not know how they expect us to live in this country. It seems it should only be the rich and the well-off who should be seen driving," he fumed.

Although the dealers could not explain how many cars they import even in six months, it is clear that the importation is high.

Every week there are big trucks bringing loads of these cars. Even the terms applied in the sale of these vehicles speak loud and clear. "In every garage that you go to you will find cars that require no deposit because of the low prices. It is strictly cash - no negotiations.

Mahazir pointed out: "From East to the West of Mogoditshane there are more than 15 garages selling vehicles. All of them are cheap so if you do with deposits how are you going to make profit?" 

Apparently, Mogoditshane has become a 'flea market' for these imported cars and despite the danger posed to the environment by these smoke-spewing vehicles, for the seller and buyer it is business as usual. (Sila Press Agency)



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