Air pollution in Africa is one of the largest threats facing the continent today. Moreover, those who air pollution most affects live in the poorest communities. In the last 30 years, deaths attributed to air pollution increased by 60%. That was a jump from 164,000 to 258,000. Unfortunately, due to a lack of resources and unstable political systems, only seven countries in Africa have access to reliable air pollution monitors. The good news is that Africa is getting help from governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Both governments and NGOs are investing their resources to provide a cleaner future and improve the lives of millions of Africans in low-income communities.
USEPA Efforts in Ghana
Efforts by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) in Ghana aim to address air pollution in both industrial and urban communities. Areas of focus also extend to the exposure of toxic chemicals and the quality of water in low-income communities. In collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Ghana, the USEPA trained staff to not only examine the benefits of controlling air pollution but also how to better manage their monitoring stations. This support could result in both an overall healthier population and greater prosperity.
In addition to implementing new programs, in August 2018, Ghana’s EPA launched the Greater Accra Metropolitan Areas Air Quality Management Plan (GAMAAQM) which sets new standards for vehicle emissions. It also sets the standards for national air quality. On October 14, 2021, EPA Ghana announced that they would build three air quality monitoring stations in the Accra Metropolitan Area by the beginning of summer 2022. The data from these stations will allow government agencies to inform their constituents of the air quality. It will also help to pass policies that reduce air pollution and improve overall public health in all communities.
USEPA Efforts in Ethiopia
Much like its sister partnership with Ghana, Ethiopia is working to reduce air pollution and to develop and implement an efficient Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP). In Ethiopia, air pollution is the second-highest factor of death and the third-highest factor for disability.
In collaboration with Ethiopia’s EPA and several other government agencies, the next step includes finalizing the Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP). Ethiopia’s EPA will also reach out to local governments to help implement these measures. To date, Ethiopian EPA members have undergone training to identify air quality and manage air pollution monitoring stations. Ethiopia’s EPA is also collaborating with the UN Environment for a technical training program that will build capacity for the current air quality assessment program.
Columbia University’s Clean Air Toolbox for Cities
The Clean Air Toolbox for Cities (TCATC) is working to improve the lives of more than 43 million people across several cities in Africa and India. Some cities include Nairobi, Kenya; Kampala, Uganda; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Chennai, India. TCATC’s work focuses on a multitude of initiatives that reduce air pollution in impoverished communities. Some of those initiatives include:
- Building efficient air pollution monitoring stations
- Advocating for relevant policies both nationally and internationally
- Establishing Clean Air Hubs as local outreach centers that support technological development
- Educating and encouraging collaborative development to reduce pollution and poverty
A highlight of TCATC’s work in India includes data gathered from 109 fine particulate matter sensors in 25 Indian cities. That data shows that the increase in monitoring stations from 2017 to 2020 improved India’s Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) ability to track air pollution and spatial coverage in 17 states. Places like Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai saw more “good” air-quality days in 2019 and 2020 than in 2017.
The Work Continues
Air pollution in Africa is a devastating crisis. Luckily, organizations like the USEPA and TCATC are working with local governments, which is helping to make a difference. As these groups build monitoring stations, air pollution tracking and awareness improve. As that happens, air quality is improving. Most importantly, with time, millions of impoverished Africans will be healthier and more prosperous.
– Sal Huizar