Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bogotá Self-Poisoning Policies

The Progress of Environmental Laws:

On the left, an old-time train, back before environmental laws. On the right, with environmental laws, a bus belches smoke on Ave. Septima yesterday.
Warning: Cigarette smoke causes impotence, strokes,
heart attacks and lung cancer . but do
breathe deep that vehicle exhaust.
El Tiempo published an excellent report today about the city's retreat on air quality laws. Our wise city officials have trashed one Pico y Placa rule designed to pressure bus companies to reduce their vehicles' pollution, another to remove some of the city's thousands of excess buses from the streets and a third intended to phase out the highly-polluting two-stroke motorcycles.

Why they've moved backwards on these issues, despite the air pollution which burns our throats and does incalculable harm to our heart and lungs, is incomprehensible. Paradoxically, the city has passed progressive and commendable laws against indoor smoking, and required that cigarette boxes carry harsh warnings about smoking's health damage. So, why do they ignore the huge health impacts of all of those smoke-belching vehicles and other sources - a single one of which can produce the equivalent of the smoke from thousands of cigarettes? And, like tobacco, scientists recently found diesel smoke to be carcinogenic.

This wood chipper at work beside the National Park
today behaved more like a filterless incinerator.
What's behind this decision? Is it the bus companies' great political and economic power? Politicians' prioritizing the motorcyclists' votes over clean air? The detachment of politicos and pencil pushers from the suffocating reality of Bogotá's avenues?

One indication is the officials' hapless and absurd justifications for these decisions. I read that the city expects owners of those two-stroke motorcycles to: A) Convert them to four-stroke motorcycles - a technical impossibility or B) Fit them with catalytic converters - which unfortunately work only on four-stroke engines.

In any case, the owners of these highly polluting vehicles operate them that way precisely because they don't want to spend money and don't care about dirtying the air. And, anyway, many of Bogotá's cars, buses and trucks obviously lack the filters and catalytic converters the law requires. But in the land of magical realism, officialdom can believe anything.

Today's El tiempo even interviews a city 'environmental' official, who says that restrictions aren't necessary "because the city will begin implementing the Integrated Public Transit System within 18 months." But the SITP has been postponed again and again and again, and Bogotanos need to breathe today. (And anybody who believes that the system will necessarily be cleaner should watch a few of TransMilenio's vehicles belch their way up Jimenez Ave. He even claims, bizarrely, that those buses, popularly known as rolling chimneys, don't add to pollution levels. - Huh, dude?

On Jimenez Ave, the 'environmental axis, a TransMilenio bus - the pride of the city - disappears in its own smoke.

Here's our video about pollution's impacts (in Spanish). Nuestro video sobre los impactos de la contaminacion del aire en Bogotá.

Related Posts:

Pollution: We See It, But They Don't

 By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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