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  • Brenna Walsh

Opportunities to Expand Particulate Matter Measurement in Addis Ababa

In the month of May I had the opportunity to travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on behalf of SPARTAN to participate in a workshop Accelerating Urban Clean Air Progress: Using Innovations to Translate Data to Action, co-hosted by Vital Strategies and Eastern Africa GEO-Health Hub.


The city of Addis Ababa is in the foothills of the Entoto Mountains, and upon stepping out onto the tarmac the hills and mountains rising up around the city provide an impressive view. The city was bustling with activity, and with roads full of cars, taxis, buses and scooters. As the city came to life in the early morning, it quickly became evident why urban traffic is the most widely recognized source of emissions by the general public. There was also evidence of growth everywhere in the city, with amazing amount of new building under construction throughout the city, as Addis doesn’t have a formal downtown or business district. Trees lined many streets, but the human impacts from this city nestled in the mountain valley were quite evident.

Participants in Accelerating Urban Clean Air Progress in Addis Ababa workshop, May 2019

The workshop brought together local, regional and national government stakeholders and local researchers highlighting the strong local interest in addressing air quality for improved health in Ethiopia.NGOs, and other international organisations such as the World Health Organisation, World Resources Institute and UN Environment as well as the US Department of State representatives based in Addis Ababa were also in attendance. SPARTAN was featured in the afternoon session as an innovative solution for air quality monitoring and source characterization.

This workshop was an unique opportunity to hear many of the strong commitments that have been made by Ethiopian decision makers to improve air quality, particularly in its large and rapidly growing capital (Addis Ababa had a population of approximately 4 million inhabitants in 2017, with an annual population growth rate of 3.8 %). Ethiopia currently has seven sites to monitor air quality and is incorporating evidence based recommendations into its national State of Environment Report, which is currently under review. The Addis Ababa Environmental Protection and Green Development Commission are also working with the USEPA to strengthen air quality management through policy development and stakeholder engagement, monitoring, and building technical capacity within the city government for ongoing air quality analysis. It was very informative to meet these local stakeholders, allowing for a stronger understanding of how SPARTAN will fit into this group of actors working on air quality management. We are very excited to be joining this group in the coming months. Deploying a SPARTAN station in Addis will be an exciting opportunity for us, as we will be well positioned to directly contribute to enhancing understanding of local air quality and to contribute to inform both local and global health efforts.


One of the primary themes of discussion in the workshop came around data. Important questions came out of this discussion related to:


· Importance of consistent, quality, long-term data collection for air quality monitoring,

· Data sharing, open data platforms

· Transparency in collection to reduce redundancies, efficiently use resources and foster collaboration

· Breadth of information available and how to efficiently fill data gaps

· Potential for local data to influence national and regional contexts

· Translation of data: both for policy relevance, effective communication with civil society etc.


SPARTAN provides data on PM2.5 mass, quantifies trace metals (both of natural and anthropogenic origin), secondary inorganic components estimates of black carbon and organic composition. As one of the only measurement networks who provides speciation of PM2.5 -in addition to overall mass- outside of North America and Europe, it contributes key information at the local scale and to global models which provide PM2.5 mass, composition and source information. With significant deficit of data on quantity and sources of air pollutants in sub-saharan Africa, the introduction of a SPARTAN monitoring station in Addis is expected to greatly improve satellite estimates both at the national and regional scales.


This graph demonstrates monitoring sites with publicly available PM2.5 composition measurements

The multi-stakeholder nature of the workshop brought into focus some of the key areas of synergies between efforts where collaboration could accelerate action for achieving specific goals, addressing multiple global issues., For example, many of the same pollutants for which we look to generate data for source attribution and associated non-communicable disease risks are the same sources which contribute most to the region’s carbon emissions. Developing this evidence base could motivate the creation of policy with dual goals: to mitigate effects of air pollution on human health and mitigate climate change. Improved air quality can often be a strong motivator to address climate change at the local scale. The results of decreasing emissions within a city contributes to mitigating climate change globally, but health effects associated with improved air quality are felt at the local level, and can garner more local support. Workshops such as this one that bring together diverse stakeholder provide useful context for how SPARTAN data can help drive change.


SPARTAN’s measurements aim to provide representative data of particulate matter in the city and will provide important information for source apportionment. Long term measurement from SPARTAN and local agencies will provide an extensive baseline of urban emissions, provide key data to study impacts of policy to curb emissions from particular sources and help keep the impressive mountain skyline in view.



One striking feature of the city which I had the opportunity to visit on the final day I was there was the Gullele Botanical Gardens, jointly managed by Addis Ababa University and the City of Addis Ababa. The gardens are found on 704 hectares of protected lands within city limits, which has been reforested with native trees in the past 10 years. In addition to this site being a beautiful, peaceful and calming escape from the busy city, it certainly also brought about thoughts relating to the potential of such natural spaces within our hectic cities. Though beyond the goals and scope of SPARTAN, it would certainly be very interesting to be able to quantify carbon sequestration and absorption of pollutants which this forest has provided in the last 10 years, and will provide into the future.

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