When most people think about air pollution, they tend to imagine rapidly developing cities such as Delhi and Beijing. But urban areas in the Western world are equally having to deal with increasing levels of smog. Paris is currently experiencing an “exceptionally serious” crisis, as a massive spike in pollution has become the most prolonged event for at least a decade.
In response, the city has announced that all public transport will be free for the second day running, while on Tuesday the Velib bike-share and Autolib electric cars were also free to use. In addition, the city has implemented a system in which only half of all cars are allowed to enter the city center.
On Tuesday, only cars with an even-numbered plate could drive in the capital region, while on Wednesday it will be the turn of all cars with an odd-numbered plate. Anyone flouting this rule is to be fined €35, with 1,700 fines handed out on the first day alone.
The temporary ban placed on half of all vehicles comes just days after the mayor of Paris pledged, along with three other major cities, to ban all diesel cars by 2025 in a long-term bid to cut the dangerously high levels of air pollution present in the capital. The plan is to instead promote alternative vehicles, while at the same time promote walking and cycling.
“Today, we also stand up to say we no longer tolerate air pollution and the health problems and deaths it causes – particularly for our most vulnerable citizens,” the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, announced when the pledge was made in Mexico City last week. “Big problems like air pollution require bold action, and we call on car and bus manufacturers to join us.”
The current situation has not been helped by the windless conditions across the city, meaning the smog blanketing the capital has not been dispersed as it usually would be. Air pollution is thought to kill at least 3 million people globally, with the majority of these being in cities. As the public health implications of pumping dangerous gasses and particles into the streets becomes more obvious, more urban centers are going to have to start taking action.