Identifying critical assumptions and risks in air quality management planning using Theory of Change approach


  • Phathutshedzo Mukwevho North-West University
  • Francois Retief
  • Roelof Burger North-West University
  • Adam Moolna Keele University



air quality management plan, risk, Theory of Change, Narrative, map, Development, implementation, Critical Assumptions


Governments across the world have been developing legislation and policy implementation instruments to address air pollution issues. Air Quality Management Plans (AQMPs) have emerged as a key instrument, with most developed countries having established effective AQMPs. These take a variety of forms depending on the overarching national framework for environmental regulations. The uptake of AQMPs in low and middle-income countries, however, has been less broad and, even in those that have adopted AQMPs, their effectiveness and efficiency have been limited, especially in urban areas.  South Africa has adopted AQMPs and is recognised as having one of the most mature and complex air quality management legal frameworks in the world. Yet South Africa is still facing serious air quality challenges, especially in those areas that have been declared as priority areas. This paper, therefore, aims to identify critical assumptions and risks as a basis to evaluate the effectiveness of AQMPs as a policy instrument through the application of Theory of Change (ToC) approach. This study has resulted in the development of the ToC map, identification of 15 critical assumptions and associated causal narrative framework. In addition, this paper identified key risks underpinning the AQMP development and implementation process in South Africa. The identified critical assumptions embedded within different components of the ToC framework are not the only assumptions relating to this policy instrument, however, they are the fundamentally important ones that may significantly impact the success or failure of the AQMP system in South Africa if not managed. This study suggests that in order to further understand the challenges relating to the effective development and implementation of AQMPs, it is important that further research be conducted to test the validity of these critical assumptions which will provide solutions towards avoiding or mitigating risks associated with them.


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How to Cite

Mukwevho, P., Retief, F., Burger, R., & Moolna, A. (2024). Identifying critical assumptions and risks in air quality management planning using Theory of Change approach. Clean Air Journal, 34(1).



Research Article

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