Rome limits traffic to lower pollution levels
Fri, 02 Dec 2011 12:33p.m.
As experts from around the globe debate global warming and measures to slow it in Durban, South Africa, the city of Rome is taking measures to lower the high levels of toxic particles in its own air.
The Italian capital, due to its infamous traffic congestion and extraordinarily good weather, has exceeded the air safety limits 56 times already this year.
As a result, the municipal government must take emergency measures. They are using partial blocks of vehicles and pedestrian weekends to push air pollution levels back down to normal.
Rome has a very limited metro system.
Officials say every time they attempt to improve its scope and efficiency, the exploratory digging runs into protected roman ruins.
Nevertheless, a major project expanding the city's metro system is expected to be completed in 2012.
City officials say they are working on a program for sustainable transportation including expanding the number of electric buses and car and bike sharing. However, austerity measures will hit efforts to improve environmentally-friendly systems.
Rome municipality is monitoring various pollutants, but the most alarming data comes from tests on Nitrogen Dioxide and toxic particles called PM10.
These particles are minuscule pollutants that can be breathed into the lungs, bypassing natural human filters in the nose and throat. Some are so small they can even pass into the bloodstream.
The city of Rome has imposed an alternative license plate system for Thursday and Friday.
On Thursday only cars with even numbers at the end of their license plates can move, on Friday it is the odd numbers.
Rome's city police, the municipal police, were out early Thursday morning stopping and giving tickets to those who did not adhere to the restrictions.
The regulations were imposed because the air pollution exceeded the safety limits for six consecutive days reaching emergency levels set by the European Union.
Carbon emissions in Italian cities are the second source of air pollution and in Rome and Naples carbon emissions from vehicles are the greatest source of air pollution.
"If we want to breathe more polluted air than we are breathing in Italy, we can only go to Bulgaria. This shows how our country is the second to last place for air quality in all of Europe. This sad record has led to the opening of infringement procedures against Italy by the EU," said Pollution expert, Giorgio Zampetti.
However, Rome city councillor for environment, Marco Visconti, was to quick to point out on Thursday that the situation was not solely in the hands of the authorities.
"We have to emphasise that this current pollution situation is not only due to car traffic, but also to climate change," he claimed. "This deposit of toxic particles is due to high pressure and to the absence of wind."
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