Urbanisation

Cities in developing countries are expanding rapidly due to unprecedented rates of urbanisation. Whilst there are clear and numerous economic benefits from urbanisation, there are also downsides.

Increased air pollution has an adverse effect on public health and food security, with air quality compromised in cities and crop yields reduced due to ozone damage, reducing the ability to feed growing populations effectively.

This unprecedented growth inevitably leads to a surge in unregulated emissions. The majority of these sources are associated with energy production in residential, commercial, industrial, and transport sectors. Many rapidly developing cities lack the resources to maintain an extensive air quality monitoring network, so little is known of the sources, evolution, and chemical fate of these pollutants, limiting the ability to develop effective environmental policy to mitigate air pollution. 

Projects available under this theme

Find out more about the project and apply directly to the scholarships via the listings below. You can also follow our guidance on how to apply to the Global Challenges PhD Scholarships.

A new tool to quantify air pollution detrimental to health and food security in rapidly urbanising cities

Marais and Bloss

Air pollution is detrimental to public health and food security. Fine particles (PM2.5) are breathed deep into lungs and ozone is a powerful oxidant harmful to humans and crops. Cities in developing countries are expanding rapidly due to unprecedented rates of urbanisation, leading to a surge in unregulated anthropogenic emissions that go on to form ozone and PM2.5. Many cities lack the resources to maintain an air quality monitoring network, so little is known of the sources, evolution, and chemical fate of these pollutants. This limits the ability to develop effective policy to mitigate air pollution. Satellite observations provide daily coverage of the Earth’s atmosphere and so offer a unique opportunity to circumvent the lack of ground-based air quality monitoring. The overall aim of this PhD project is to constrain pollution sources and examine temporal and spatial variability of air pollution in and around rapidly urbanising cities using satellite observations of air pollutants, interpreted with a detailed chemical transport model. Target cities include Delhi (India), Kathmandu (Nepal), Ontisha (Nigeria), São Paulo (Brazil), Jakarta (Indonesia), and Johannesburg-Pretoria (South Africa).

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Visibility, air pollution and public health in an African urban context

Pope and Thomas

This project will investigate the rapidly increasing air pollution in Africa and its impacts upon human health in African cities. Particulate matter (PM) pollution consists of airborne particles, which are smaller than the width of human hair. PM damages human health by harming the lungs, heart and blood vessels thereby causing life threatening diseases. PM pollution also causes degradations in visibility and therefore visibility measurements can be used as a low cost proxy for PM measurements. This PhD will link visibility to air pollution and human health outcomes in Africa.

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