For decades, atmospheric pollution in the Republic of Benin has increased, especially in the main towns and, above all, in the government seat of Cotonou. Many factors have been at the root of the problem, including a rapidly increasing population, commercial and industrial development, poor urban transportation infrastructure, an unchecked increase in motorbikes, and the use of low-quality oil products. The resulting pollution has had harmful effects on crops, human health and ecosystems, and it has added to the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
In response, the Ministry of Environment has been conducting actions for a number of years, including setting standards for air quality and adopting laws and regulations in areas ranging from air pollution levels, to emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, to the import of motor vehicles. The government has also conducted varied studies, including on air quality in Cotonou, the environmental impact of industry, greenhouse gas emissions of waste and the possibility of increased public transportation. And the government has implemented information, education and communications campaigns to strengthen the environmental awareness of citizens.
Research has confirmed that the transportation sector contributes the majority of the atmospheric pollution in Benin. In response, the government has developed a programme for technical control and maintenance of vehicles, which in many cases can be performed free of charge to motorists. The objective of the programme is to identify vehicles that are not properly maintained and encourage owners of vehicles and garages to keep engines in good shape.
The country also is improving the skill level of vehicle technicians, garage owners and mechanics through training in the latest pollution control technology, and workshops are being conducted on achieving fuel economy. The government has installed several fixed stations for monitoring air quality, including two in the capital of Porto-Novo and two in Cotonou. Additional stations are planned for Parakou.
As a result of all these measures, the country has had remarkable success, moving from a pollution rate of 80% of vehicles in 2000 to 17.5 percent today.