“Will I live past 50 years?” This is the question I ask myself each time a bus passes by, belching a thick cloud of smoke. Before thinking of an answer, my body gives me one. Eyes smart in the smog as nostrils sting. I sneeze my lungs out and wipe the tears on my cheeks. This is a cry, a weird one, a cry for air pollution.

Welcome to Nairobi city, a polluted city. The phrase ‘get some fresh air’ is satirical in this city. The state of vehicles on the roads is appalling; old and unsafe. The biggest contributors to this menace are public service vehicles. Shockingly, vehicle emissions kill more people than road accidents. According to UNEP the air quality impact roots over 14,000 premature deaths annually. In small amounts you never notice but over time the smoke accumulates in your lungs. You end up worse than one who’s been smoking their whole life.

Half of the world’s population growth over the next 30 years will happen in Africa and half of that population will be living in urban areas. Undoubtedly, more cars will be bought but unfortunately majority of them will not be new cars. As directed by the draft national automotive policy, the age limit of imported cars with engine capacity of above 1500CC was to be capped from eight years to five years with effect from July 1 2019. However, this never saw the light of day as it was postponed for a year owing to a strong resistance from the Kenya Auto Bazaar Association. This did nothing but precipitated the dangerous yet invincible hazard.

Negligence and corruption sits at the center of the prolonged existence of air pollution in Kenya. In October 2019, NEMA announced that vehicles aged 5 years and above will undergo inspections for emissions after every two years. Lo and behold, the status quo remains. Truly, sanity left our roads when John Michuki exited the then Ministry of roads over a decade ago. Unroadworthy vehicles still plight our routes and everyone seems unbothered except for the traffic police officers who are only bothered by the amount of bribes they receive.

Sadly and to their incognizance, traffic police officers spend the most time on our roads and therefore the most exposed to the harmful emissions. They should be at the fore front of ensuring that such vehicles are out of our roads at least for the sake of their own health instead of abetting their existence. Some are of the opinion that Kenya is a third world country and that we can only afford to buy and travel in old, dilapidated vehicles. Well, I hope they are saving enough for chemotherapy has never been cheap.

As we choke to death, our future generations face a great peril; dumbness (not the inability to speak). Scientists have proven that when an expectant mother is exposed to particles from diesel combustion and the fetus comes into contact with them, it reduces the child’s IQ by about 10%. A currently chocking to death generation and a future dumb one. It can’t get any worse!