- University of Birmingham
Urban air pollution is one of the most pressing and understudied multi-sectoral development challenges facing cities today. Exposure to air pollution (both outdoor and household), is seen to increase the risk of diseases such as lung cancer, heart disease bronchitis and other respiratory conditions. According to available estimates, in 2013, 5.5 million premature deaths worldwide (one in every ten total deaths), were attributable to air pollution. However, given the lack of air quality data in low and middle income countries, local governments often struggle to contextualise how air pollution impacts on urban residents or factor air pollution concerns into urban planning. This challenge is particularly pressing in East African cities where population growth between 2015-2030 is forecast to be substantial; for example, Addis Ababa’s population is projected to increase by 80%, Kampala’s 103% and Nairobi’s 82%.
In Africa, the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013 indicated that air pollution was associated with an estimated 712,000 premature deaths and, according to the OECD, had an associated economic cost of USD 215 billion. Taken together, in Ethiopia and Uganda outdoor and household air pollution risk factors lead to a greater number of premature deaths compared to unsafe water, unsafe sanitation and childhood underweight risk factors. Whilst these headline figures are alarming, they gloss over the disproportionate impact of air pollution on certain areas, groups and occupations.
The extent to which an individual is harmed by air pollution depends on their total exposure to pollutants (a measure of the duration of exposure and the concentration of pollutants) and their underlying vulnerability, e.g. as a result of age (the young and older people), ill-health or poverty. Those living in informal settlements lacking risk-reducing infrastructure and services, those who use ‘dirty fuels’ for cooking and heating and those who work in occupations with high health risks or in locations with high pollution, e.g. street vendors, are particularly vulnerable.
The ASAP team have developed three scenarios. These scenarios have been written with the intention of being as different from one another as possible, based on a combination of the most important and, at the same time, uncertain drivers or trends. It is important to bear in mind that these are just stories - in some cases exaggerated (although not impossible) ones . They are constructed accounts of the future that use the power of story-telling as a means of going beyond the assumptions and understandings of any one interest group, in order to create a shared basis for dialogue and action about critical and difficult issues.
The scenarios initially set out to answer one central question: “Over the next 20 years, what factors will drive East Africa’s and the world’s responses to the air pollution, and what kind of future will there be for the next generation?”
The side event is intended to raise awareness of the issue of air pollution and introduce the research being undertaken by the ASAP-East Africa project. The side event will provide an accessible and engaging forum in which a non-expert audience can garner increased awareness of the causes and consequences of air pollution. The side event will engender discussion and engagement with a variety of stakeholders highlighting areas of future collaboration.