Councillors see Interfaith Air Quality project in action

News Release Released: 25 October 2021 Councillors see Interfaith Air Quality project in action Sandwell Council cabinet members Councillor Suzanne Hartwell and Councillor Ahmad Bostan visited the Yemeni Community Association in Sandwell Ltd on Friday, 22 October, to highlight ‘Car Free Friday’, as part of the association’s support for the borough’s air quality monitoring project.

During the project, the Yemeni Community Association has been encouraging their worshippers to leave their cars at home when they attend prayers.

The Yemeni Community Association is one of 16 Sandwell faith centres which are taking part with the council in a two-year project to reduce air pollution and improve air quality through behavioural change. The Air Quality project launched at eight faith centres across Sandwell in September.

The work, organised by Sandwell Council and Defra, raises awareness of air pollution and the damaging effects it can have. The project aims to give local people information of simple steps they can do to improve the situation which will in turn support improvements in health across Sandwell.

The first eight faith centres taking part in the project are:

• Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Smethwick;

• Parish Church of St Francis of Assisi in Friar Park;

• Shree Pashupatinath Mandir (Shani Dham) Hindu Temple in Blackheath;

• Shri Venkateswara (Balaji) Temple in Tividale;

• Smethwick Jamia Masjid;

• St Matthew’s Church in Tipton;

• the Wesley Centre for All in Wednesbury; and

• the Yemeni Community Association in West Bromwich.

These eight faith centres have received TV monitors, low-cost air quality Zephyr pollution monitors and toolkits, and other resources for a year from the council’s Air Quality Team.

This equipment provides data to a display screen inside the main area of the centre, showing air pollutant levels in a bespoke dashboard format.

At the start of the project, each centre received a questionnaire to assess the level of understanding and perceived importance of air quality among their community.

The toolkits contain information about the types of indoor and outdoor air pollution, funding and grant opportunities, information for local businesses, methods of community engagement, ideas for campaigns and more.

Based on information from the dashboards and the toolkits, each centre will be encouraged to use these resources to develop a tailored air quality plan and find ways to improve local air quality that best suit their centre’s needs and those of their community. At the end of the first 12 months, the faith centres will be asked to produce a report about their intervention methods, and to attend an air quality conference to discuss intervention methods with the other faith centres.

They will also receive a second questionnaire to measure any change in understanding and the perceived importance of air quality among their communities.

For the second year of the project, the eight Zephyr air quality monitors will be moved to the other eight faith centres to repeat the project. This second wave of the project will also incorporate feedback and advice from the first wave of faith centre participants.

Throughout the project, the faith centres will have access to the council’s air pollution officers and support from public health development officers. The Air Quality Team successfully obtained an Air Quality Grant 2020/21 from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to support the project, and has been working to engage with faith communities in Oldbury, Rowley Regis, Smethwick, Tipton, Wednesbury and West Bromwich, throughout 2021.

The Yemeni Community Association is a small community-based organisation that seeks to represent and meet the particular needs of Yemeni and other Arabic speaking-communities in Sandwell, as well as extending its services and activities to other disadvantaged communities within the area, bringing the community closer together in mutual support of one another. Ragih Muflihi, CEO of the Yemeni Community Association, said, “It is important to us that we were able to be a part of this programme. “We know that air pollution has a negative effect on the health of our worshippers and we want to ensure they have clear information that can make a difference to them and our future generations.” Dr Lisa McNally, Sandwell’s director of public health, said: “The progress achieved by the Yemeni Community Association in engaging with their community to monitor and improve air quality – such as supporting highlight ‘Car Free Friday’ – is a fantastic outcome for the four months they have been actively involved in the project. “A report will be presented to Sandwell Council’s cabinet this month, proposing to designate the whole of Sandwell as a ‘Smoke Control Area’ so that we can respond to the pollution caused by household open fires and wood burners.

This would help the council to further address air quality in the borough.” Cllr Hartwell said, “We all know that air pollution is having a damaging effect on the health of our residents. Moving forward, we all must look to see what changes we can make to see a real difference in our area.” Cllr Bostan said, “We are seeing positive steps being made in Sandwell with the speed reduction on the M5 and the increased number of bicycle lanes, however we need to do more if we are to make this a borough our future generation can be proud of.” For more information or to find out how to get involved next year, please visit: https://www.sandwell.gov.uk/info/200274/pollution/485/air_quality/6 For more information about the Yemeni Community Association, visit https://www.yca-sandwell.org.uk/

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