An initiative by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), IQAir, a Swiss air quality technology company, Safaricom, Alpha and Jam Ltd and Metropolitan Star Lite Ltd, Out Of Home (OOH) media will see Nairobi residents receive a livestream of Nairobi’s real time air pollution via digital billboards. This is part of an attempt to raise awareness about air quality among the city’s 4.7 million residents.
The pilot project aims to offer real-time air quality information for small airborne particles, also known as PM2.5, which are among the most dangerous types of air pollution.
Its goal is to involve the public by broadcasting real-time air pollution data to digital billboards at four key places in Nairobi; Moi Avenue, University Way, Mbagathi Way, and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
PM2.5 has been linked to major health problems such as asthma, lung cancer, and heart disease. Low birth weight, increased acute respiratory infections, and stroke have all been linked to PM2.5 exposure.
In a statement, Lawrence Mwangi, Assistant Director of Environment in charge of pollution control at the Nairobi County Government said that real time air quality monitoring will help with the issuance of health advisories as well as formulation of smart traffic controls that minimize congestion.
Around 3 billion people use open fires and rudimentary stoves to cook and heat their houses, using biomass (wood, animal dung, and crop waste) and coal. Particulate matter (soot) absorbed from household air pollution is responsible for more than half of all pneumonia deaths in children under the age of five. In 2012, it was projected that outdoor air pollution in both urban and rural areas caused 3 million premature deaths worldwide, with 88 percent of those fatalities occurring in low- and middle-income nations.
“Action on air pollution, which is responsible for millions of premature deaths a year, is critical – efforts should focus on high-risk communities, such as people living in informal urban settlements,” Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP said in the statement.
The Nairobi air quality awareness demonstration project is the result of a unique collaboration between the United Nations, the private sector, academia, non-governmental and local governmental organizations, and it is expected to speed up efforts to change how cities manage transportation, waste management, and other services so that air pollution from these activities is significantly reduced, if not eliminated.
“This partnership lies very much at the heart of our sustainability agenda that seeks to address environmental issues such as air pollution which remains a major challenge especially in urban centres. We intend to use our digital platforms and expansive network infrastructure to support the air quality monitoring project to expand across more urban areas in Kenya. We will also foster partnerships with other stakeholders including regulators, relevant ministries and private organizations to help build a compressive and sustainable air quality monitoring system in the long run”, said Peter Ndegwa, CEO, Safaricom PLC.
The launch was done on September 7, as the world commemorated 2nd International Day for Clean Air and Blue Skies, celebrated under the theme “Healthy Air, Healthy Planet.” Increased international collaboration at the global, regional, and sub-regional levels is called for on this day and serves as a forum for building global solidarity and political momentum for action against air pollution and climate change, including greater data gathering, joint research, the development of new technologies, and the exchange of best practices.