December 12th, 2016
Paris Pollution Battle
Environmental pollution is one of the greatest challenges that the world is facing today. Paris is among the many global cities trying to combat air pollution.
Paris introduced an odd-even rule to battle worst winter pollution in a decade. It also made all public transport free in an attempt to reduce the level of contamination.
The restrictions on traffic and the odd-even scheme introduced in the French capital are similar to the ones implemented in New Delhi earlier this year. According to The Independent, public transports in the city were made free for everyone since Tuesday last week. The odd-even scheme lasted for four days last week; a first for the city to have such restrictions. Normal traffic and regularly priced public transport services resumed from 10 December.
Increasing particulate matter levels
For the first time in twenty years, drastic measures were called for after a fog of particulate matter descended on Paris a week ago. A pollution alert was triggered when the Association of Air Quality Surveillance Airpariff published the readings of PM10 (particulate matter 10 micrometres) in France. Even until the end of November, the levels were in the high 50s at the most; that is at 50 micro grammes per cubic meter (50/100). But from November 29, the levels suddenly rose to be in the high 70s. The numbers increased continuously, till they were at the peak on 7 December at 94/100.
— Airparif (@Airparif) December 6, 2016
Translation – Theon island-of-France will be high (90/100 index) today and high tomorrow (94/100).
Over 2000 people visited the hospital for asthma and other breathing problems in the first week of December. Last year, it was 1500 people for the same period, as per USA Today.
Other French cities, Lyon, Marseille, Rouen, Avignon, Grenoble have also experienced the low air quality.
“There have been around 48,000 premature deaths in France every year due to air pollution, and it is the third biggest cause of death, but the politicians react only when they are under the pressure of public opinion,” says Sebastien Vray, The President of Respire.
Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, said that reducing pollution is a priority. She tweeted a photograph taken from an aircraft showing the city covered in a blanket of grey with only the top of the Eiffel Tower visible. She wrote, “Proof of the necessity to reduce the number of cars in city centres”, as reported by The Guardian.
Rising pollution levels a Global problem
The other major cities which have battled thick smog and air pollution this year are Beijing, Shanghai, New Delhi, and London. It is quite clear that this problem is now a global crisis. India currently ranks at the top with 16 cities out of the top 30 most polluted cities being Indian. China has worked over the past five years. They now have five cities in the top 30 world cities with the highest levels of ultrafine PM2.5 particles in the air. For PM10 particles, India has eight cities in the top 30.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), between 2008-2013, the outdoor air pollution rates increased by 8% globally. The Guardian did an article on Air pollution rising at an ‘alarming rate’ in world’s cities.
Despite all this, the problem is not without a solution. WHO and the Climate & Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) have recognised close to 20 methods to clean the air. They believe that applying these measures will have immediate benefits for the health of the people, as well as the climate. Some of the measures are – sustainable transportation, solid waste management, industrial waste reduction, clean cookstoves, renewable power, energy efficient homes, to name a few. The cities that implemented some/all of these steps saw a 5% reduction in pollution levels in the past five years. You can read the full article here.
It is time for all of us to start working towards the climate change problem. Let us pressure our civic bodies and governments into action. Let us be part of that change and ensure a healthy, breathable, and safe future; for us and our children.