In order to improve air quality in Cape Town and surrounds areas, within its mandate, has legislated the control and monitoring of air quality through the use of by-laws and management plans. 

The City’s Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP) was approved and implemented in 2005. This plan aims to ensure that clean air is achieved and maintained in the city over a period of 10-to-20 years. The primary mission of the AQMP is to reduce the health effects of poor air quality on the citizens of Cape Town.  In order to reduce the health effects of poor air quality, a number of goals are outlined by the AQMP, and include but are not limited to: formulating an air quality management system, specifying air quality standards, prioritising specific pollutants, improving air quality in informal areas, and enforcing current and future regulations . A full list can be found by reading through the Air Quality Management Plan. This action plan has resulted in a number of area-specific action plans and the formulation of the Air Quality Management By-law in 2010, amended in 2016.

The Air Quality Management By-law was implemented in 2016 as an outcome of the AQMP. This legislation was drafted and implemented with the aim of enforcing the strict regulations and compliance monitoring set by national government in the context of Cape Town, as well as enforcing the City’s own local government mandate. The Air Quality Management By-law sets out reasonable measures to prevent air pollution for any persons within the city. It designates the powers of the air quality officer and sets local emission standards and smoke - control standards (including dwellings, non-dwellings and vehicles). The enforcement of this legislation is done through continuous compliance and enforcement and monitoring action. It encompasses other legal checks and balances, such as setting standards and specifications on fuel-burning equipment, identifying and prioritising substances emitted that present a threat to public and environmental health, open-burning approvals, and notices for contraventions.

Air quality has improved across the city through cross-sectoral and departmental work and ongoing efforts to clean-and-green areas, pave previously unpaved roads and improve infrastructure development.

Trend and target


  • Trend: In general, NO2 levels have decreased over the past 12 years. They are generally within the guidelines standard, apart from within the Cape Town CBD. SO2 levels have maintained low trends over the past 12 years, keeping within the guideline standards with discrepancies occurring every few years. However, PM10 levels are more problematic and have considerably increased at most sites over the years.

  • Target: Environmental Agenda target of full compliance with SA Ambient Air Quality Standards.

  • Current: All sites meet NAAQS for NO2 and SO2, however some sites have not complied.


Policy linkages


IDP: Strategic Focus Area 3 - The Caring City

SDG: Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Environmental Agenda 2009-2014: Standard 3 – Air Quality.

Air Quality Management Plan: An integrated plan for managing air quality and reducing air pollution in the city.

Air Quality Management By-law 2016

See also: Chapter on Climate Change.