Friday, July 29, 2011

Can't Breathe

The most shocking thing to me was the air pollution. I knew that I wasn’t going to the jungle and live like Tarzan but I thought I would be closer to the nature in Africa than in the other industrialized countries. Wrong. I literally found it very difficult to breathe because of the pollution. I found it appalling and bizarre when one of the professors told us that the cars that did not pass the air-quality-standards in Europe were being sold to Africa. So I had to do some research.

Here is what I found.( mostly from Africa Environment Outlook )
West Africa has one of the largest markets for the used cars. 84% of the cars in Dakar are imported; therefore, they are old.  The average age of vehicles in Dakar is approximately 15 years for cars and 20 years for buses. On top of that, most of the imported European cars have diesel engine, which have particularly toxic emissions, but also many owners replace the petrol engines after importation with diesel engines because diesel is cheaper than petrol. More than 40% of the cars in Senegal have diesel engines. Even when the cars use petrol, often dirty fuel is used because of the poor economic development.
Inside of typical taxi by Elizabeth Vincelette

The quality of the car, engine or fuel isn’t the only problem. The West African big cities such as Dakar, Bamako or Lagos have the world largest population growth rate; due to the rapid urbanization, there wasn’t enough time for adequate urban-planning.  Most of the time, residential and commercial centers are far apart forcing people to commute by vehicles daily. This car exhaust raises emission level significantly. The concentration of economic activities also encourages industrial air pollution. See how chaotic the city traffic is.

No traffic light whatsoever.

Air pollution is not only bad for the environment but also for the health. I was glad to find that the Senegal Ministry of Environment has stepped up and introduced regulations to provide cleaner air: 1) stricter requirements for importation 2) air quality monitoring stations around Dakar.
I don’t quite know how to conclude this. It took me forever to decide what to include and what not to include in this journal about “air pollution” because it seems like everything is intertwined together. Nothing is one single simple issue. Everything is more complicated and complex issue than what it seems, what I know and what I think.
I just hope that one day, my friends in Dakar could breathe fresh air.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

No Drama

When I arrived in Dakar, the very fisrt thing i noticed was the buildings. There were buildings but most of them weren’t painted nor had windows. Later I found out that those buildings weren’t abandoned; people actually live in some of those unfinished-looking buildings.
1. Kalima & Penina's host house; by Kalima Johnson
by Elizabeth Vincelette

I think this represents Senegal, if not Africa, to some extent. Here in the states, we have/do everything in excess. We eat more than necessary so people become obese; we make excuses to spend more money like Valentines’ day or “retail therapy”; even emotion is sometimes blown out of proportion. Some girls cry when they see Justin Bieber. On the other hand, Senegalese consumption style was mostly limited to necessity. They ate three meals (those who can afford three meals, that is); no bowl of m&ms on the desk or potato chips stocked in a cabinet; girls had shoes but not every color of heels to match with their outfits; they laugh and have good time but not obnoxiously, only genuinely. so to me, the cement grey buildings were like Senegal.