Pollution and health in Madagascar : Antananarivo the polluted…

15/01/2019. As we have heard many times, the environment is deteriorating. On a global scale, mankind is running amok by shamelessly exploiting resources and generating far too much pollution. In the case of Antananarivo, the accumulation of garbage remains a recurring affair, not to mention the long ignored pollution/health relationship.

But if the competent authorities are not too anxious to take action, the question is whether the population is aware of what is going on in their daily lives. In today’s survey, we are going to study this pollution/health ratio from the point of view of the people of Tananarivo.

The Tananarivians are totally aware (as Van Damme would say)

When asked about several aspects of pollution in the capital, the vast majority of Tananarivians believe that it has a major impact on their health:

  • 95% think so for the pollution generated by traffic
  • 93% think so for the fumes from cooking bricks
  • 95% think so for industrial fumes from factories
  • 95% think so for water contamination
  • and 90% think so for insecticides and other pesticides
Pollution generated by car exhaust fumes is a fact of life in the capital.
Pollution generated by car exhaust fumes is a fact of life in the capital.

Those who are convinced of the contrary, as you can imagine, are not numerous. One percent think that traffic pollution has no effect on their health at all. They are 2% for brick smoke, 1% for factory fumes, 1% for water pollution and 2% for insecticides and pesticides.

In the end, 89% of the Tananarivians questioned think that air quality is deteriorating in our beautiful capital. That’s a lot. 6% then think it is getting better and 4% think it has remained the same.

Garbage, in the canal or in the trash?

With the saturation of garbage bins in the urban Commune of Antananarivo, one would be tempted to believe that Tananarivians make “good” use of them and, indeed, this is the case (in all likelihood).

For example, 74% of those surveyed said they gladly dispose of their household waste in these bins, while 17% benefit from a waste collection service.

Our trash bins are much more disgusting than this one.
Our trash bins are much more disgusting than this one.

Against all expectations, we also found “honest” answers with 6% who admit to getting rid of their household waste in the street, even if it means throwing it in a wasteland, in a sewer. Finally, 2% prefer to burn or bury them.

Passers-by and their garbage in the street

In general, Tananarivians adopt the good habit in the street, since 87% of them do not ask for help and throw their rubbish in the garbage. Another 12% say the opposite and therefore throw their rubbish on the ground.

Everyone has a share of responsibility for a healthy environment
Everyone has a share of responsibility for a healthy environment

When asked why they do this, 59% of this portion simply told us that it is not at all in their habit.

Then 19% were not at all shy and said that there will always be someone to pick up their rubbish! Then 17% said they could not find any garbage bins on their way and finally, 1% said they take their garbage with them in their bags or pockets.

It should be noted that 4% did not give us their opinions.

What can we conclude from this survey on pollution and health?

The first thing to remember is that the people of Tananarivo are well aware that pollution influences their health. Moreover, one can only be alarmed when one sees things like a public dump near a school.

Landfills of this kind, there is more than one in Antananarivo...
Landfills of this kind, there is more than one in Antananarivo…

It is also deplorable that the image of the city of Antananarivo is associated with garbage. According to the survey (which was to be expected), garbage is, for the 68% of Tanananarivians interviewed, the most obvious manifestation of pollution in the city. This is followed by traffic pollution for 24% of the capital’s inhabitants and water pollution for 3%. For another 3 percent (3%), it is brick firing fumes that are the most representative of pollution in the city, followed by 2 percent who consider that it is rather factory fumes.

How then can we not think that the majority of diseases affecting the inhabitants is not closely linked to all this pollution?

Pollution and Health in Antananarivo: Shocking Reports from the World Health Organization

At the first global conference on air pollution held in November 2018 in Geneva, the World Health Organization stated that air pollution is the cause of approximately 7 million deaths per year worldwide.

Nearly 1.8 billion children under the age of 15 would also breathe polluted air. It’s quite confusing to talk about such a fatality, but most of them are going to die from it… And among children under the age of 5, nearly one death in 10 is due to air pollution.

You are not even safe in your own home since poor indoor air quality is also a cause of death according to the WHO. Indeed, the dangerousness of air pollution is linked to the accumulation of pollution at the ambient level (outside) and that inside homes.

Respiratory infections due to fuelwood are a good example of the effect of pollution on health.
Respiratory infections due to fuelwood are a good example of the effect of pollution on health.

WHO recommends the following tolerances for fine particulate matter (PM2.5):

  • 10 μg / m³ on average for one year
  • 25 μg / m³ on average for a day

And this is for coarse particulate matter (PM10):

  • 20 μg / m³ for an annual average
  • 50 μg / m³ for a 24-hour average

In the case of Antananarivo, the limit is largely exceeded: its annual rate of fine particulate matter is 60 μg/m³, i.e. three times the recommended values. In one day, it can even reach 360 μg/m³. The city is one of the most polluted in the world.

There are many causes, but the most important are: carbon emissions from bush fires, industrial emissions and car exhausts. The health consequences of this pollution range from increased risk of stroke, to cancer, to acute and chronic respiratory infections.

In 2016, the transport and logistics services company DHL also assessed the air quality in Antananarivo with AirBeams, connected aircraft. An app (AirCasting) was then color-coded according to the level of ambient pollution. The green color indicates a healthy environment, the yellow color means that we are in a tolerable level of pollution and the orange color already announces that the situation is critical (case of Ankorondrano and Analakely in June 2016). As for the red colour, it simply says that the air quality is approaching the unbreathable (case of the Ambanidia tunnel with a pollution level estimated at 80%).

Unfortunately, judging by all those cars piling up in the capital’s monster traffic jams and the excessive use of coal as cooking energy (not to mention the rest of the pollutants), I’d say we’re still a long way from being green?

Edit: you will find here the results of a research published in 2003 on air pollution in Antananarivo. It is both horrifying and very edifying! (thanks to lantoratsida for the info!).


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