Paris chok­ing un­der worst win­ter pol­lu­tion in decade

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -


Paris choked yes­ter­day un­der its worst win­ter pol­lu­tion in a decade, with com­muters en­joy­ing free pub­lic trans­port and half of the cars or­dered off the road in an ef­fort clear the air. The surge in pol­lu­tion has been driven by cold weather and near wind­less con­di­tions that have trapped car ex­haust, wood smoke and other pol­lu­tants, said the French cap­i­tal’s Air­Parif air mon­i­tor­ing ser­vice.

Though bad by lo­cal stan­dards, cur­rent lev­els of fine air­borne par­ti­cles known as PM10 in Paris are around 60 per­cent of lev­els in no­to­ri­ously pol­luted Bei­jing and a frac­tion of read­ings in New Delhi, known as one of the world’s most pol­luted cap­i­tals. City au­thor­i­ties an­nounced a sec­ond day of traf­fic re­stric­tions, with a ban im­posed on pri­vate cars with regis­tra­tion plates end­ing in even num­bers from be­tween 5:30 am (0430 GMT) and mid­night.

They im­posed the same re­stric­tion on cars with odd-num­bered plates on Tues­day. Pub­lic trans­port in the city was also free for a sec­ond day run­ning to en­cour­age com­muters to leave their ve­hi­cles at home, while school chil­dren are be­ing pre­vented from ex­er­cis­ing out­side. “This is a record pe­riod (of pol­lu­tion) for the last 10 years,” Karine Leger of Air­Parif told AFP by tele­phone.

For more than a week now, Air­parif has pub­lished read­ings of PM10 at more than 80 mi­cro­grammes per cu­bic me­ter of air par­ti­cles, trig­ger­ing the pol­lu­tion alert. It recorded the high­est level of pol­lu­tion last Thurs­day, re­port­ing 146 mi­cro­grammes/m3. Other parts of France were also fac­ing pol­lu­tion alerts, with the air par­ti­cle con­cen­tra­tions ris­ing to dan­ger­ous lev­els in the south­east and the north of the coun­try. The cen­tral city of Lyon was suf­fer­ing as pol­lu­tion gath­ered in the Rhone Val­ley, also af­fect­ing the Alpine towns of Cham­bery and An­necy.

Fines for mo­torists

The en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist can­di­date in next year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, Yan­nick Jadot, said that politi­cians needed to tar­get the most pol­lut­ing ve­hi­cles and re­strict the use of diesel en­gines. “We have politi­cians who tell us they are look­ing af­ter our health,” Jadot said. “The re­al­ity is that when they have to choose be­tween traf­fic, diesel and our health, un­for­tu­nately they don’t choose our health.”

This is only the fourth time Paris has re­sorted to traf­fic re­stric­tions to cope with air pol­lu­tion. The re­gion’s of­fi­cials took sim­i­lar mea­sures in 1997, 2014 and 2015. But a par­lia­men­tary re­port has ques­tioned the ef­fi­cacy of the re­stric­tions, ar­gu­ing that they do not tar­get the most pol­lut­ing ve­hi­cles. De­spite the mea­sures on Tues­day, of­fi­cials re­ported heavy traf­fic jams in and around the city in the morn­ing and evening rush hours.

Traf­fic po­lice were kept busy try­ing to en­force the anti-pol­lu­tion mea­sures, fin­ing more than 1,700 mo­torists for vi­o­la­tions. Paris po­lice chief Michel Cadot warned the traf­fic re­stric­tion might be kept in place for a third day. He called on com­muters to limit their car use or or­ga­nize car shar­ing to min­i­mize traf­fic pol­lu­tion. Adding to the re­gion’s prob­lems, the Paris rail link to its main air­port, Charles de Gaulle, has been out of ac­tion since Tues­day morn­ing af­ter an ac­ci­dent brought down power lines, forc­ing more peo­ple to take to the road. State rail com­pany SNCF said Wed­nes­day they hoped to re­open the line by 1500 GMT. The air par­ti­cles be­ing mea­sured can cause and ex­ac­er­bate a range of res­pi­ra­tory and car­dio­vas­cu­lar ill­nesses.

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