In a collaboration between the University of Nairobi Science and Technology Park - Maker Space Lab, Open Seneca, the University of Cambridge and UN-Habitat, a pilot project has started in Nairobi to build low cost mobile sensors in order to map out air pollution in Kenya’s capital city. The sensors monitor particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 micron (PM 2.5), which partly originate from the transport sector. The small particles impose a severe human health risk and affect the respiratory tract. The pollutant sensors are accompanied by a GPS module in order to correlate the air pollution data to a certain location.
Pollution in the Kenyan capital Nairobi is on the rise - and there is no escape from it. With Nairobi’s predicted rise in population – and a constant inflow of cars due to the high motorization rate – an urban health crisis is anticipated if no action to lower pollution levels is taken. In an effort to measure air pollution, the Urban Pathways project spearheaded by UN-Habitat has joined hands with the University of Nairobi’s Maker Space Lab in a project called “Open Seneca Nairobi – Air Quality Monitoring powered by citizen science”. Open Seneca is a project that aims to create a global air quality sensor network with the help of citizen science to build sensors, measure their air pollution exposure in a bid to raise awareness and initiate behavioral change.
Tuesday, 2 July, foresaw the launch of the project. In his opening speech, Dr. Robert Ayah, Director, Science and Technology Park, University of Nairobi, appreciated the efforts by the young innovators: “The Maker Space is full of bright minds that are turning ideas into actual products. The results of the Air Pollution study will benefit the people in Nairobi and create awareness on the hazardous impact of pollution on human health”.
Stefanie Holzwarth, Urban Mobility Unit, UN-Habitat explained that “55% of the world’s population already resides in urban areas. However, 88% of the urban residents are exposed to air pollution levels that exceed WHO recommended levels. This project in Nairobi comes at the right time.”
During the workshop, participants did not only learn how to build sensors with open-source hardware and software, but also how to interpret the air quality data that will be collected over the next 30 days. A total of 10 devices were mounted on different transport modes: 3 on Uber taxis, 2 on matatus (Nairobi’s minibuses), 2 on BodaBodas (motorcycle taxis) and 3 on bicycles. The drivers/ riders were flagged off in the afternoon – and the mapping of the air quality levels around Nairobi at different times of the day has started.