In most cities around the world, the issue of Vehicle Emission has become quite catastrophic. The issue is much more alarming in cities of developing and under-developed countries and Ghana is no exception. The vehicle emission occurs when the internal combustion engines emits substances considered pollutants and unhealthy to humans and the environment. The control of vehicle emissions therefore refers to the study and practice of reducing the motor vehicle emissions — emissions produced by motor vehicles.

The Dangers

Emissions of many air pollutants have been shown to have variety of negative effects on public health and the natural environment. Emissions that are principal pollutants include Hydrocarbons, a class of burned or partially burned fuel. The rest are Carbon monoxide (CO),Nitrogen oxides, Particulate matter – Soot or smoke made up of particles in the micrometre size range, Sulfur oxide (SOx) and Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) among others.

Regulatory Regime

Due to the huge health and environmental implications of vehicle emissions, steps have been taken in many countries to deal with the menace. In fact, many countries have set up institutions and agencies and charged them with the sole responsibility of regulating exhaust emissions. Their modes of operations differ from one jurisdiction to another jurisdiction, even in the same country. For example, in the United States, overall responsibility belongs to the EPA, but due to special requirements of the State of California, emissions in California are regulated by the Air Resources Board. In Texas, the Texas Railroad Commission is responsible for regulating emissions from LPG-fueled rich burn engines (but not gasoline-fueled rich burn engines).

In North America, Transport Canada exercises the regulatory functions over trains and ships. In Europe however, the regional body, the European Union has control over regulation of emissions in all member states; though many member states have their own government bodies to enforce and implement these regulations in their respective countries. In short, the EU forms the policy (by setting limits such as the European emission standard) and the member states decide how to best implement it in their own country.

The United Kingdom is however an exception within the EU. Here, matters concerning environmental policy are what is known as “devolved powers” which means, each of the constituent countries deals with it separately through their own government bodies set up to deal with environmental issues in their respective country.

So for instance, the Environment Agency is in-charge of vehicle emissions within England and Wales; the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) for Scotland and the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland. However, many UK-wide policies are handled by the Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and they are still subject to EU regulations.

Here in Africa, the AU has guided most of its sub-regional economic blocks to initiate steps to regulate emissions from vehicles. In most of the these countries, the issue seem to have dawned on the governments only after the 1992 Earth Summit hosted by the Brazilian city of Rio de Jeneiro but was forcefully re-echoed with the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa some few years ago. So whereas a larger framework exists to deal with the threats within ECOWAS, individual member states have mechanisms.

In Ghana for instance, the environmental protection agency (EPA), the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), the Ministries of Environment and Transport all have separate roles to performance to ensure the streets are rid off vehicles which emit harmful substances.

The Tasks

The established institutions and agencies in Ghana have all been assigned tasks they are to perform to ensure air safety on our roads. As to whether they live up to expectations is another matter for future discussions. The Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology through the EPA and the Ministry of Transport through the DVLA are enjoined to assist government and for that matter parliament to formulate policy directions, framework and guidelines in vehicle emission controls.

Currently, a Road Traffic Act exist and represents a good example of a consultative, cor-ordinated and dedication to the task and if the Road Traffic Regulations 2012, LI 2180, is anything to go by then some form of mechanism exist to guide the issue. The Regulation 2 of the LI states “A person shall not drive a vehicle on the road unless the engine of that motor is covered and does not pose a danger to other users of the road.”.

The responsibility of ensuring compliance prior to licensing and registration of a vehicle rests with the DVLA and many Ghanaians have huge expectations of the authority based on this alone. What is urgently needed to be done by the authority is the implementation of vehicle exhaust emissions testing programme. This when speedily and diligently executed would eliminate rickety and smoky vehicles from our roads and safeguard human health and environmental safety.

Whiles this is being done, the EPA is also expected not to renege on its air quality monitoring role. Their findings are expected to compliment those of scientific research institutions including the GAEC for effective advocacy work. The police Motor Traffic and Transport Unit (MTTU) have their role well cut out for them; arrest, detain and prosecute road traffic offenders including those using vehicles unsafe for humans that if CEPS is unable to ban the entry into the country of over-aged, rickety and smoky vehicles which impacts extremely negatively on our roads and posses health risks to the people. We must all remember that fumes from these vehicles are deadly and the task to control is that of all of us.