In order to monitor air quality and produce real-time data to guide policy decisions, about 60 sensors have been installed in some communities in the Greater Accra Region, Ghana.
It consists of noxious gases, pollutants, and particulates that could be dangerous to human health.
This is a component of a plan by the Ghana Urban Air Project to increase the capability of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to monitor.
Initial information from a project funded by the Clean Air Fund is already revealing some trends in Accra’s pollution levels and assisting in the localization of pollution hotspots.
According to international standards, every city must have air quality sensors within a five- to ten-mile radius, Mr. Desmond Appiah, the Fund’s Country Lead, said.
The EPA in Accra has a number of sensors, but not enough to give the city enough data.
The existing data gaps could be filled in with the help of a citywide network of inexpensive sensors.
“Beyond having sensors to collect data, the capacity of technocrats needs to be built to understand and interpret the data and make use of it.
“When the air quality data is aligned to economic and health impacts and used as a basis to build awareness among the public, we will be making good progress, ” he said.
“For now, we are developing a sense of what is happening in Accra, but we need more localised data to engage with policymakers on the next steps,” he added.
Mr. Appiah explained that as cities expanded, they struggled with problems related to poor air quality, using Accra as an example, one of Africa’s fastest-growing cities and economies.
In Ghana, the annual average PM2.5 level in 2019 was 11 times higher than the levels that the WHO recommended for 2021.
The Country Lead cited deforestation, the use of wood fuel for cooking, emissions from industries, indiscriminate trash burning, fumes from not overaged and poorly maintained vehicles, and shrinking green spaces as some of the main causes of air pollution.
The health, happiness, and socioeconomic prospects of those living in growing cities, according to Mr. Appiah, would deteriorate without a rethink of the development paradigm, which put health and environmental responsibility at its core.
This would ultimately impede prosperity and economic growth.
“We have well crafted environmental laws and structures for delivery, but there is a huge gap in enforcement. This has occasioned some of these problems. The law must work,” he said.
“There are things we can easily begin to do to reduce pollution and reestablish the country’s leadership in the subregion for environmental stewardship.”
He said the country had comprehensive activities on adaptation and mitigation under the nationally determined contributions for climate change and that there was a need to prioritise those that could generate a snowball effect on air quality and health.
Mr. Appiah noted that there were great initiatives such as the carbon trading market, reinforcing the age limitation on vehicle importation, liquified petroleum gas for cooking energy, energy efficiency, the e-vehicles initiative, and annual greening.
“We need to be deliberate and go for those that can yield big impacts first. If we plant trees and enforce the building permit system, the green spaces will increase. We can also look at introducing more public transport systems and promote non-motorised transport, add rail as a major part of our mobility infrastructure development and be efficient in waste management. ”
The World Bank estimates that the annual cost of air pollution in Ghana is $2.5 billion, or roughly 4.2% of GDP.
According to the World Health Organisation, air pollution contributed to more than 1 million deaths across Africa in 2019 and is thought to have contributed to about 28,000 deaths in Ghana from non-communicable diseases like lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stroke, and ischaemic heart disease.
Implementing suggested clean air policies to reduce air pollution, according to the Clean Air Fund’s 2022 “Pollution to Solution” report, could save Accra more than $28 million, or roughly 16% of its projected financial costs in 2040.