Mexico City Imposes “No Circulation” Rule Against Pollution

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Mexico City, in a day with moderately dense traffic

Depending on how much you actually know about pollution, you might be surprised to hear that Mexico is one of world’s leading polluters. In fact, back in 1992, Mexico City was declared by the United Nations to be the city with the highest amount of pollution on the planet. Of course, things have changed since then, with Mexico’s capital being rated as the 461st most polluted city in 2011.

As China and India have been getting more and more polluted and Mexico City has been going down the list, officials have been getting lax in their efforts to curb the pollution in the city. And following a series of laws and carelessness, an air pollution alert was issued in March for the first time in eleven years.

Now, wanting to do something about the situation, Mexico City imposes “no circulation” rule against pollution in a most likely doomed to fail exercise in futility. While city officials are confident, at least publicly, that the plan will work, many others critique the way they decided to go about things.

Announced on Wednesday, the program entitled “Hoy No Circula”, or “Today No Circulation” is a driving ban of sorts. According to the new legislature, all privately owned cars have to stay off the streets for one day a week and for one additional Saturday per month. This followed a four-day air quality alert which had pollution levels at twice the national accepted levels.

However, even though previous similar strategies have worked to a certain degree, many experts are skeptical about the potential successes of the city officials’ plans to reduce pollution – especially since it was several laws passed by the same officials that were responsible for bringing some 1.4 million cars back on the road on a day to day basis.

According to Dr. Héctor Riveros of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, even if 500,000 cars were to be removed from the streets, it would cause some 800,000 people to flood the city’s public transportation, which would then have to send in more automobiles, increasing the overall pollution.

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.

According to the National Statistics Institute, over twenty million people call Mexico City their home, making it the third largest city in the world after Tokyo and New Delhi. As many as 4.7 million vehicles were registered in the city in 2014, with the number only going up ever since.

Image source: Wikimedia