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Billboards to show city residents quality of air

By Mactilda Mbenywe | September 13th 2021

Digital billboard along Mbagathi Way, Nairobi. [Courtesy, Standard]

Residents of Nairobi will know in real-time the quality of air they are breathing using four recently launched digital billboards.

The billboards which were installed across the city began live-streaming this Wednesday to increase awareness on air quality which in Nairobi is polluted by among others; vehicle and motorcycle exhaust fumes with the most harmful being fine airborne particles which cause asthma, lung cancer and heart disease.

Exposure to fine airborne particles also known as PM2.5, has also been associated with low birth weight, increased acute respiratory infections and stroke. The pilot project aims at engaging the public by streaming real-time air pollution information at four locations: Moi Avenue, University Way, Mbagathi Way and the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

“Real time air quality monitoring will help us with the issuance of health advisories as well as formulation of smart traffic controls that minimize congestion,” said Lawrence Mwangi, Assistant Director of
Environment (pollution control) at the Nairobi County government.

Nairobi has about five million people and the advisories, Mwangi adds, will “help people limit their exposure to harmful pollutants” considering most residents  do not have access to real-time air quality data and consequently, are often unaware of the harmful levels they breathe. But policies and investments supporting cleaner transport, energy-efficient housing, power generation, industry, and better municipal waste management would reduce key sources of urban outdoor air pollution.

 “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,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP which partnered with IQAir, a Swiss air quality technology company, Safaricom, Alpha, and Jam Ltd, Metropolitan Star Lite Ltd and Out Of Home (OOH) Media on the Nairobi air quality awareness demonstration project.

 “Some of the world’s most vulnerable communities are disproportionately affected by poor air quality,” said IQAir CEO Frank Hammes.  “The real-time visibility of the impact of air pollution can help governments and communities take actions that lead to cleaner, healthier air.”

The initiative is expected to accelerate efforts to change how transport, waste management and other services are managed in cities so that air pollution from these activities is significantly reduced, if not eliminated and Peter Ndegwa, CEO, Safaricom says the company will use “our digital platforms and expansive network infrastructure to support the air quality monitoring project to expand across more urban areas in Kenya” besides “including regulators, relevant ministries and private organizations to help build a compressive and sustainable air quality monitoring system in the long run.”

The demonstration project comes as the world celebrated the second International Day for Clean Air and blue skies on September 7 under the theme, Healthy Air, Healthy Planet.

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