Urban air pollution, colonial policies, and their legacies on the poor in Dakar, Senegal
- / Image by Sally Pusede
- Environment and Health
Africa is experiencing the fastest rate of urbanization in the world. Although atmospheric data are limited, there is evidence that urban air pollution is a severe and growing problem in West African cities, including Dakar, Senegal. Because of the rapid pace of urbanization, poor economic development, and the lack of infrastructure, pollution sources are more diverse and uncontrolled than in cities in the U.S. and Europe. Factors such as poor transportation infrastructure, wide-scale importation of older more-polluting vehicles, and sprawling slums physically fragmented from city centers, contribute to air pollution, and, in each case, are inextricably linked with European colonialism. Senegal faces an additional human well-being challenge of poverty, with almost half the population below the poverty line. This project combines atmospheric science, economic, and humanistic approaches to understand both the drivers and impacts of air pollution in Dakar, Senegal. It explores two linked hypotheses: (1) French colonial policies of racial segregation motivated urban development projects that contribute to current-day African air pollution, and (2) the burdens of air pollution in African cities are greater for the urban poor.