Fighting Air Pollution in Mexico City

Mexico City

Mexico City has decided to take drastic measures against air pollution, and in this respect will implement a ban on driving cars starting on April 5 until June 30. The announcement was made last Wednesday and obliges residents to take public transport one day each week and one additional Saturday each month.

The measure comes in response to the quality alert that took place on March 14 and lasted for four days. During these days, the city had double the level of air pollution that is accepted on a national level. Named “Hoy No Circula” which translates to “no circulation”, the program completes the country’s extensive efforts to combat air pollution. According to Rafael Pacchiano, federal Environment Secretary, the commission is at the moment also working on other solutions to pollution, such as improving public transport.

Mexico City is well known for its high pollution levels. The United Nations classified the city in 1992 as having the most polluted air on Earth. While Mexico City has improved the quality of its air since them, the government has also taken it easier on quality control. The air pollution alert from March has proven that the city has yet to resolve its air pollution problem. Unfortunately, the corruption level of the country has also made this endeavor quite difficult.

In spite of this well-intended efforts, there are many who believe that the strategy will not work. UC Berkeley energy researcher Lucas Davis believes that previous bans have never improved air quality. In his opinion, people still do not take public transportation and opt for taxis, Lyft or Uber for comfort. Davis has stated that Mexico City should follow the example of Singapore: taxing drivers who take major roads at heavy traffic hours.

National University of Mexico’s Center for Atmospheric Studies has also released a statement voicing the fact that air quality, water resources, crops and ecological reserves are all affected by the hectic urban expansion of the city.

Dr. Héctor Riveros from UNAM is also against the decision, since he stated that even in the event that 500,000 will be removed from the streets, about 800,000 citizens will flock to public transportation, which is known to pollute much more than personal cars:

“The Hoy No Circula program has never worked, traffic may have diminished a little, but pollutions levels have not changed. The only real solution here is to improve the fuel. If we do that the contaminants in the air would reduce between 30 and 50 percent. But the only real solution is people avoiding having to travel long distances to get to work.”

The air pollution problem of Mexico City needs to be urgently tackled, since it is ranked as the third biggest city in the world with its twenty million people, after Delhi and Tokyo. In 2014 alone, more than 4.7 million cars were registered in the city, as reported by the National Statistics Institute.

Image Source: Dialogo Chino