Students take a walk on the wild side in Metro Manila

The activity provided our students with a wonderful opportunity to learn more about how to protect the air and the environment

A lack of accessible sidewalks and infrastructure, obstructed walkways, poor drainage and high concentrations of particulate matter were among the findings of students from Malabon National High School in Metro Manila during a walkability and air sensing activity on August 19 to document the air quality and mobility challenges facing their community.

Equipped with portable air sensors and a walkability survey, 36 Year 7 students, their parents and faculty members took to the streets to monitor air quality and audit road and pedestrian facilities within the vicinity of the school.

Organized by Clean Air Asia, the UPS Foundation and Malabon National High School, the activity was aimed at building students’ knowledge about air pollution and climate change issues, and how those issues affected their health and the environment.

“We want to improve students’ understanding of mobile emission sources, their impacts, and how non-motorized transport, such as biking and walking, can help contribute to climate change mitigation and realize the co-benefits of air pollution reduction,” said Clean Air Asia Environment Researcher Precious Benjamin.

Ms Benjamin said the students identified vehicles and street cooking as being among the leading emission sources, with maximum particulate matter (PM2.5) readings ranging unhealthy levels of +100µg/m3 to hazardous levels of +400µg/m3.

Using the Walkability survey developed by Clean Air Asia to evaluate mobility, the students assessed 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 students found that most of the roads lacked sidewalks, making it unsafe for pedestrians. And in a lot of areas, participants needed to share the road with vehicles,” Ms Benjamin said. “Sidewalks, if provided, often failed to meet specifications. At widths of less than 2m, it wasn’t possible for people to walk with ease. Exacerbating the difficulties were obstructions such as vehicles, garbage and even caged chickens along roadsides.

“In addition, there was a lack of infrastructure along walkways, particularly for people with disabilities. And a poor drainage system and rain earlier that day left some roads flooded and unpassable for pedestrians.”

The activity proved eye-opening for students, teachers and parents, and instilled a greater appreciation for, and awareness of, the air quality situation and the different elements needed to ensure safety and ease of mobility for pedestrians.

“We are thankful to Clean Air Asia and UPS for partnering with us in this event. The activity provided our students with a wonderful opportunity to learn more about how to protect the air and the environment, towards a better Malabon City,” said teacher Desiree Melindo. “We wanted to conduct this as part of Malabon National High School’s thrust to be an environmentally sustainable school.”