Kiambu, Kenya 3 August  2017—Telco Ericsson has partnered with UN-Habitat, UN Environment and the County Government of Kiambu to deliver a project dubbed “Improving Air Quality in Kiambu County through Placemaking and Open Street Activities.

As part of ongoing consultations, UN-Habitat in collaboration with its partners brought together various stakeholders from the County’s technical teams, the Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (NaMATA), the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), and representatives of public transporters, Matatu  Saccos among others. The deliberations focused on raising awareness of technical staff and counterparts on the impact of transportation on local air pollution and discussing potential actions to improve air quality and hence urban well-being. Participants were informed about the importance of Placemaking as a possible tool for citizens working together to improve their local environment and to activate streets as vibrant and livable public spaces.  A presentation of the draft transport policy which is ongoing provided an over-arching framework for sustainable mobility planning.

During the workshop, in her opening remarks, Njeri Mburu, Kiambu County Executive Member for Roads, Transport, Public Works and Utilities said “the government of Kiambu appreciates UN-Habitat’s effort and determination for the last two years to make Kiambu a better place. This stakeholder’s workshop is key for us for it reflects on our desire to work towards the 2030 development Agenda where SDG 11 calls us to “make cities inclusive, safe resilient and sustainable”. As a county this project fits well in our vision, as it was in the case of developing the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan for Ruiru (SUMP) where stakeholders engaged to give their views on the proposed transportation developments in Ruiru.”

The UN-Habitat representative, Ms. Stefanie Holzwarth in her presentation on the link between transport, air quality and Placemaking illustrated that “Placemaking is a tool to create safe, inclusive and accessible public spaces for all through public action, participation and partnerships. Placemaking entails the closing of streets in order to reclaim and activate them as public spaces for the urban residents – utilizing temporary and low cost measures. In the course of such events, cities can be transformed into vibrant, joyful and healthy places.”

Air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk. According to WHO in 2012, around 7 million people prematurely died, one in eight of total global deaths as a result of air pollution exposure. Transport is the main source (>50%) of urban air pollution in many developing countries. Key pollutants are fine particulate matter, black carbon, and nitrogen oxides among others – all causing severe health risks for urban dwellers.

This project aims at improving air quality in Ruiru - which is part of the County Government of Kiambu – by implementing placemaking and pedestrianisation projects. The project is expected to set an example that can be replicated in other towns and cities as a way of advocating for greener and more inclusive cities.

Mr. Victor Nthusi, a UN Environment representative illustrated that “more developing countries need to be enabled to monitor air quality and to estimate the health effects, especially in vulnerable human populations and ecosystems”. For the project, UN Environment will provide low-cost sensors to monitor air pollution before, during and after the placemaking activity in Ruiru. Such assessments are needed to test the correlation of air quality and pedestrianisation projects – in order to be able to quantify the benefits of investing in sustainable mobility.

The stakeholders’ positive response to the content of the workshop will facilitate the planning of the first placemaking and air quality monitoring event in Kiambu County planned for September 2017.