Once the purveyor of the cleanest air in the country, then the denizen of the dirtiest air in the country, Mexico City is back on its way up. Here’s what McClatchy had to say about the air on the eve of the Cancun climate talks:
MEXICO CITY — Slowly and steadily, this sprawling city is cleaning up its air.
Joggers trot through parks in the morning, and cyclists increasingly take to the streets. On many days, residents can gaze southeast at the snowy 17,802-foot volcano with the hard-to-pronounce name — Popocatepetl.
A haze still covers Mexico City, and ozone levels are often unhealthy. But the capital is no longer the smog-choked city of two decades ago, when birds were said to fall from the sky dead. It’s been years since teachers kept kids off playgrounds to prevent respiratory illness.
Mexico City’s air pollution reached its nadir in 1991, when the city chalked up only eight days with air quality below hazardous levels.
In contrast, this year is setting a record — 193 days with adequate to good air quality through Thursday.
“For many years, we were considered the city with the most contaminated air in Latin America. Today, we aren’t even the most polluted city in Mexico,” said Martha Delgado, the city’s secretary of the environment. “There’s a clear trend toward a dramatic decline in air pollution.”
Delgado said the capital is reaping the rewards of two decades of pollution-fighting policies. Private cars, which must pass emissions tests every six months, are kept off city roads at least one day a week. Authorities have mandated a reduction of lead and sulfur in fuels. And the heaviest polluting of the city’s 50,000 factories have been relocated.