Air pollution: A recurring environmental alert

The movie repeats again. In February, the city registers high levels of air pollution as a result of forest fires in the region. But burning is not the only source that affects air quality; also motor vehicles -especially those that use diesell or those with more years of circulation, as is the case of cargo transport- and industries, especially those that depend on coal for their industrial processes.

The problem is not recent and has been very well diagnosed, so much so that almost 2 years ago a new plan was launched to decontaminate the city’s air for next years.

Having a document public policy guidance is a first step, but it is not enough. In fact, in recent years several Conpes and different resolutions have been published to combat this silent enemy that affects the main cities of the country.

Today, given the evidence of the perverse effects of climate change and the need of moving towards less polluting energies, people are more aware of the need to strengthen regulations and change behaviors.

This means modifying consumption habits and improving controls on poor agricultural and livestock practices that put pressure on the felling of forests, forest burning and increased water consumption, which leads to the disappearance of biodiversity in various areas of the national territory.

Bogotá ha demonstrated its commitment to improve air quality in recent years. On the one hand, the Council’s agreements for the energy transition in public transport and, on the other, the administration’s commitment to incorporate urban areas into the POT for better air, the increase in the number of wetlands and the protection of the eastern hills, added to an interesting commitment to increase urban trees throughout the city.

However, it has been difficult to obtain good results in the south west – in sectors such as Sevillana – where, historically, there are serious problems due to fixed and mobile sources. Nor has much been achieved to renew the fleet of cargo vehicles or at least force them to use filters or catalysts in their combustion systems. Not to mention the car owners and motorcycles who evade the technical-mechanical inspection.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, it must be recognized that the dismantling of the provisional SITP and the bill and plate extended can bring positive impacts to the environment, but not so much if nothing is done with freight transport and the imminent increase in motorcycle sales. In addition to a deteriorated road network that also carries material resuspended in the air.

It does not make sense for Bogotá to do the task if the neighboring municipalities are lax in their policies and controls. Here it is also important to evaluate the role of the CAR in preventing forest fires and agricultural burning carried out by some peasants in order to ‘prepare’ the land for the first crops of the year.

Improving quality of the air transcends the geographical limits and the administrative competences of a city. What many experts have called ‘governance of the air’ is urgently required. In any case, concrete results are needed soon and without delay.