Students assess walkability and air quality in busy Manila district

The walkability and air sensing activity supports JZES’ continued mission in strengthening its sustainability and eco-friendly programs to protect the health and overall welfare of students

Up to 50 elementary school students, parents and teachers took to the streets of one of Manila’s busiest districts on February as part of a walkability and air sensing activity aimed at raising awareness of the co-benefits of air pollution reduction and providing a more holistic understanding of environmental issues.

The “JZamoraES: An Eco-friendly Community for Everyone’s Health and Safety – Walkability and Air Sensing Activity”, organized by Clean Air Asia and the Padre Jacinto Zamora Elementary School (JZES) and supported by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, was designed to improve students’ understanding of mobile emission sources and their impacts, and how non-motorized transport such as biking and walking contribute to climate change mitigation and the realization of the co-benefits of air pollution reduction.

JZES, located in Pandacan and educating more than 2500 students aged from six to 12, is surrounded by three major thoroughfares and is within a five kilometer radius of a range of commercial operations, manufacturing plants, oil depots and railway stations, exposing students to a cocktail of harmful emissions.

The first of the day’s activities involved a site survey that allowed students to assess pedestrian facilities within the vicinity of the school, how this affected their mobility and health, and alternative transport solutions.

Using the Walkability survey developed by Clean Air Asia, students were able to audit the following nine factors: The availability of walking paths, walking path conflicts, the availability of crossings, crossing safety, motorist behavior, amenities, disability infrastructure, obstructions, and security from crime.

“The activity gave students a better appreciation of the key elements that make up a good pedestrian facility and walking experience,” said Clean Air Asia Senior Air Quality Program Coordinator Dang Espita. “Emphasis was placed on the health and environmental benefits of walking and actions that can be undertaken to promote walking and other forms of non-motorized and sustainable transport. Another important message imparted was that individual local actions could also contribute to climate change mitigation measures.”

The second of the day’s activities, an air sensing survey, saw groups of students given AirBeam air monitors to gather air quality data. The monitors, which measure fine particulate matter (PM2.5), enabled them to determine their level of personal exposure to air pollution in their immediate environment, knowledge which in turn empowers them to undertake the actions needed to protect themselves, avoid adverse health impacts, and influence policy action.

“This activity enables students, parents and educators, as well as barangay officials, to have a better appreciation of the air quality situation in their area,” Ms Espita said.

JZES partners with the Environmental Management Bureau Environmental Education and Information Division (EMB-EEID) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in promoting environmental conservation and protection, and community health promotion. It was the regional winner and national finalist in the Elementary School Category of the 2015 National Search for Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Schools organized by the EMB-EEID.

“The walkability and air sensing activity supports JZES’ continued mission in strengthening its sustainability and eco-friendly programs to protect the health and overall welfare of students,” Ms Espita said. “It also encourages the involvement of students, teachers and other school staff in programs and activities that address these environmental issues.”

Clean Air Asia’s Walkability app can be downloaded at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ft.walkability (Android phones) and https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/walkability-app/id931191736?ls=1&mt=8 (iOs phones)