Bogotá’s air quality improves, but vehicular restrictions still in effect

If you felt like you could walk that extra mile along the Ciclovía on Sunday, and breathing at 2,860 meters above sea level was that much easier, the reason according to the mayoralty, is that the city’s air quality did improve with the weekend license plate restriction Pico y Placas Ambiental, as well as the help of Mother Nature with the occasional rain shower.

According to the district, air quality improved 50% compared to Friday when a “yellow alert” was issued after the index that measures Particulate Matter surpassed a density of 2.5. Three localities in the south of Bogotá – Bosa, Kennedy and Tunjuelito – have the worst pollution density, and as on Monday, continue with an orange alert.

The sudden decision to extend Pico y Placa to weekends until further notice, as well as expansion of the restriction during weekdays to last the working day (6:00 am to 7:30 pm), raised the ire of many Bogotanos, who on social media, criticized the measure as one that targets vehicle owners, but doesn’t enforce emissions testing on the articulated buses of the city’s mass transportation fleet, TransMilenio. Public transportation in Bogotá, including SITP buses and taxis, contribute to 56% of all pollution that stays in the sky.

But despite some very vocal Bogotanos, venting anger at TransMilenio and a fleet that is largely powered by diesel, the weekend Pico y Placa Ambiental was respected by the city’s 1.6 million car owners (and 500,000 motorcycle owners) with some 400 fines imposed by the police and 21 vehicles sent to the pound.

For the Secretary-General of the Mayoralty Raúl Buitrago, Bogotanos by cooperating showed their “love for Bogotá and, above all, helped protect the health of the most vulnerable: children, pregnant mothers, seniors and people with chronic illnesses,” he said.

According to district’s Secretariat of Environment, 44% of all the contamination in the city comes from industry, and in a summary released by the Secretariat of Environment Francisco Cruz, 15 factories we shut down in Puente Aranda over the weekend, contributing to the 50% reduction in the air quality index.

A large fire that broke out Saturday morning inside a plastics warehouse in Chapinero didn’t help with the city’s clean air offensive, but the fire department did manage to get the blaze under control with few other fire-relates incidents in the capital during the weekend.

While Bogotanos did their part to reduce emissions, so too, the weather with rainfall reported across most of the capital this weekend. However, the winds from the West that push the smog cover away from the Savannah de Bogotá has not picked up with the El Niño climate pattern, and which according to meteorologists, could last until the end of March.