A group of U.S.-based urban planners has revealed that pollution is taking its toll on this city – the Philippines’ acclaimed summer resort – without alarming local residents and authorities. Some of the investigators felt dizzy themselves after conducting pollution tests.
By AT Bengwayan
Posted by Bulatlat.com
BAGUIO CITY – A group of U.S.-based urban planners has revealed that pollution is taking its toll on this city – the Philippines’ acclaimed summer resort – without alarming local residents and authorities.
Air quality in Baguio’s central business district (CBD) – the center of vehicular traffic – is poor, said Dr. Mary Anne Alabanza-Akers of the University of Georgia. An urban planning specialist, Alabanza-Akers was born and raised in Baguio before migrating to the United States in the early 1980’s.
The Filipino-American urban planner was part of a team of scientists who conducted a study of the city’s population level. In the team were Dr. Timothy Akers and Dr. Richard Sowell of Kennesaw State University; and Dr. Luke Naeher from the University of Georgia. There were also three field researchers, all from the University of Georgia.
In a conference with reporters late December, Dr. Alabanza-Akers said that initially, vehicular exhaust contributes significantly to air pollution in the city. Baguio’s CBD is cradled in a basin where cold air traps the pollution, she said.
The team of scientists did the tests in 29 sites within the CBD, measuring air quality early morning and also during rush hours. A control site was maintained at the 3rd floor of the De Guia Building or La Azutea, along Session Road.
The scientists said that of the 29 testing sites, Carantes Street near Burnham Park showed the highest pollution at 7 a.m. The uphill Assumption Road and the Magsaysay-Lakandula intersection also recorded a high level of pollution, they said.
Pollution made investigators dizzy
Alabanza-Akers explained that ideally, fieldwork was supposed to be done daily for two consecutive weeks. “However, we had to give our field researchers a two-day break after each day of field work since daily exposure to pollution made them dizzy…they started feeling light-headed,” she said.
Pollutants were collected and recorded with the use of a Dustrak, which records particulate matter (PM) at levels 10 and 2.5. PM 10 usually affects the upper respiratory tract. PM 2.5 is considered more dangerous because it affects the lower respiratory system.
The recent research, which is phase 3 of a study, will also look into health conditions of market vendors who conduct their trade right in the CBD.
Alabanza-Akers said that their findings will be analyzed later in the United States.
Urban planning and design
Alabanza-Akers said that most sidewalks in the CBD are way beyond their bearing capacity, she added. She said urban spaces should be maintained and old buildings preserved, adding that historical context is also an important consideration in urban design and planning.
Contact with nature is a basic human need, she said, emphasizing that trees in the CBD will not only add aesthetics but will also help reduce pollution.
Alabanza-Akers also discussed several suggestions to improve the city’s CBD. Traffic decongestion is one of the basic problems that should be resolved, she said.
“Baguio is always in my mind, I take it with me wherever I go,” she said.
The U.S. study also confirmed a previous environmental report by the World Bank that found Baguio as one of the most-polluted cities in the world. NORDIS/ Bulatlat.com