ANTANANARIVO – U.S. Government air quality experts are helping Madagascar better understand the nature and risks of air pollution throughout the country. Nearly one in three Malagasy citizens die prematurely due to pollution. Of these deaths, almost half are related to air pollution. In fact, exposure to contaminated air, water and soil are the country’s leading risk factors for disease and death, according to data from the Madagascar Health and Pollution Action Plan.
As part of a two-week mobile air quality monitoring study, an interdisciplinary team of environmental, health and human rights experts, led by scientists Dr. Linda Geiser from the U.S. Forest Service and Dr. Lova Marline from the Association Vahatra—Kew Madagascar Conservation Center, traveled from Antananarivo to Toalagnaro from November 25-December 8.
The team promoted awareness of the importance of air quality during presentations at the University of Fianarantsoa, the American Corner in Toalagnaro, and at the U.S. Embassy in Antananarivo. They encouraged citizen-scientists to measure air pollution and motivated communities and universities to participate in air quality monitoring efforts. The team traveled with a vehicle-mounted air pollution monitor to measure air pollution as they traveled from Antananarivo across the highlands to Fianarantsoa, and along the coastal plains to Mananjary and Toalagnaro. They also collected air quality data at forest reserves in Ranomafana, Manombo, and Nahampoana.
Dr. Geiser is visiting Madagascar to collaborate with Malagasy experts, including meteorologist Zo Rakotomavo and research scientist Dr. Lova Marline, as they pilot the use of low-cost sensors and bio-indicators to better identify the sources, levels, composition, and spatial and temporal patterns of air pollution. The long-term goal is to build Madagascar’s capacity to collect data needed to manage air pollution sources and protect people’s health and livelihoods.
In November 2019, the U.S. Embassy installed an air quality monitor (AQM) on Embassy grounds. The AQM takes hourly measurements of fine particulates. This information is provided to the Ministry of Transport and Meteorology, published in their Bulletin Pollution de l’Air, and broadcast on Malagasy television in the form of a color-coded Air Quality Index to indicate health risks. The public is also invited to access this real-time air quality information on the Embassy’s website, Twitter @AntananarivoAir, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow website. Learn more about efforts to reduce air pollution at OpenAQ.org and the African Society for Air Quality as4aq.org.