In this blog #UrbanBetter Disruptor, Waziri Mainasara Abubakar writes about his recent visit to a park in Lagos and what he discovered about the air quality at the park.
“We spoke and he’ll be more than delighted to host you guys. He said to me that he wouldn’t mind if we monitor the the level of pollution in the park area”…
Mr Mike, a member of #Cityzens4CleanAir campaign, informed Mr Desmond Majekodunmi – the chairman of Lufasi Park, an environmental conservation park in Lagos about the evidence-informed air quality advocacy campaigns we had been implementing as part of the UrbanBetter #Cityzens4CleanAir initiative. And this was the positive response he received, extending an invitation to us to measure the air quality around the park.
Although I had visited the park in 2019, the invite got me excited all over again because this time I’d be visiting as an Air Quality advocate, UrbanBetter’s Run Leader and citizen scientist. I thought this would be a great opportunity to add more air pollution data from another location in Lagos to the data we already gathered from previous #Cityzens4CleanAir runs.
And so on the 17th of December 2022, I was joined by fellow members of the #Cityzens4CleanAir campaign group (Akpojotor Mudiaga Stephen, Dominic Pius and Chidozie Victor Onyene) for a journey to measure the air quality in the park. Specifically, I was measuring the particulate matter (PM) 2.5 level. PM2.5 particles, commonly produced from cars, generators and waste burning, are not visible to the naked eye and they are small enough to enter the bloodstream and into organs like the lungs and brain and this is how they cause illnesses like asthma, heart attacks, strokes and cancer.
It was a 30km journey from our meeting point in Victoria Island to the park, quite a long one. About 1km away from the park, we were welcomed by traffic and a hazy atmosphere as a result of the ongoing road construction of the Lekki-Epe expressway. We alighted from the bus and completed the remainder 900 meters on foot rather than sitting in traffic with polluted air.
After gaining access to the park, I switched on my air quality sensors to find that the first PM2.5 air pollutant reading was very high. I wasn’t surprised because of the dust coming in from the ongoing road construction.
There is this signpost at the entrance that reads “Breathe in fresh air from Lufasi for good health”. I had seen this message before but it made more sense to me now as an air quality advocate than it did in 2019 when I last visited for leisure. As we moved towards an area marked the “Oxygen Zone” with some palm trees and shrub-like plants, I checked the reading on the sensor and expectedly the PM2.5 level had dropped from about 90 µg/m3 to 40 µg/m3. For reference, the World Health Organization recommended air quality daily average PM2.5 level is 5µg/m3.
You can’t help but notice the environment becoming more serene as you move further inside – away from the express and into taller trees with shade cover. This area is between Lake Nora and the Forest Bathing area.
Within this area, the PM2.5 level went as low as 6 µg/m3 and peaked at 22 µg/m3. I thought this must be connected to the fact that there are more covered trees acting as carbon sinks while providing shade. At the forest bathing, we met Kelvin (we unfortunately didn’t get a picture) who had come there to read, we had a brief chat and parted ways.
Our final stop was Lake Moses.
Here, there is a small wooden hut built right on top of the lake with a foot bridge. It is an open space with no trees directly on top and from the faint honk of vehicles, I guessed we were close to the expressway.
At this point the PM2.5 level had gone up to between 25 and 35 . While Stephen and Dominic took a walk around the lake, Chidozie and I sat in the hut, taking in the fresh air while we chatted. We both agreed that we enjoyed that spot so much we could stay there for a very long time. Devoid of too much noise and distractions, it is a place where one can relax and meditate.
There were quite a number of signposts conveying messages that highlighted the health benefits of clean air and of fighting climate change. We thought: no wonder the chairman wanted us to come and measure the air quality!
I noticed that the air quality index for the entire visit was noted on the sensor to be moderate. This means that the air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups of people. In a world where 90 percent of the world population breathe in polluted air, a moderate air pollution level is a start. But the excellent air quality I noted in the middle of the park made me think: we need more public spaces with clean air.
I strongly believe this is possible and through my citizen science advocacy work, I’m committed to increasing the demand for clean air. That’s why I’m planning on measuring air quality as I run the Lagos marathon on the 4th February 2023. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram to see what I find!
Waziri Mainasara Abubakar, is an #UrbanBetter Disruptor and Cityzens4CleanAir Run Leader. A fitness enthusiast, he’ll be running the Lagos marathon on the 4th Feb 2023 and measuring air quality en route.
Read more about work by other #UrbanBetter Disruptors.