Paris Cleans Up Its Act


A general view shows the Eiffel tower and the Paris skyline through a small-particle haze March 13, 2014 as warm and sunny weather continues in France. Residents and visitors to Paris basking in a streak of unseasonable sunshine were also being treated with a dangerous dose of particles from car fumes that pushed air pollution to levels above other northern European capitals this week. Swathes of France, including the French capital, were on maximum alert over air pollution on Thursday, prompting Paris authorities to make green transportation such as its Velib bike-share and the Autolib electric car fleet free for the day.   REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer  (FRANCE - Tags: CITYSCAPE TRAVEL ENVIRONMENT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR3GX5F

Photo courtesy: REUTERS

Air pollution recently spiked up in Paris and most parts of Northern France, where the smog shrouded Eiffel Tower is said to have looked like Barad-dur Dark Tower (Chief fortress of Sauron in Lord of the Rings). On March 18th, the City of Lights’ air pollution reached a point that made them to beat all-time smog champions like Beijing and New Delhi. As Paris is gearing up to host UN’s climate summit meeting in December 2015, these air pollution stats brought only immense embarrassment. However, the French authorities took some firm steps to mitigate the problem.

Earlier, in December 2014, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo got media’s attention with a plan to ban diesel cars from the city, within five years time, and to make the central four districts in Paris as Pedestrian-only. From January this year, the city’s authorities banned wood burning and then later announced that Paris’ public bike and car sharing services are free. The foremost agenda of Parisian authorities is to deal with very tiny, respirable pollution particles called PM 2.5, which can get lodged in our lungs or even enter the bloodstreams.


Scientists from French National Center considers the poor air quality day as the ones when concentrations of PM 2.5 or PM 10 (dirtiest pollution particles) go up to 100 micrograms per cubic metre. However, the same amount of PM 2.5 is prescribed as safe standard limit in New Delhi. PM 2.5 routinely goes over 200 to 300 micrograms per cubic meter in Delhi, and the authorities so far haven’t taken any single measures to mitigate such large air pollution issues. Of course, the demographics and urban infrastructure of these two metropolitans is so different that only makes the challenges manifold.


But, still the immense support from city’s residents could make a huge difference. Deputy Mayor of Paris state that around 75 percent of Paris’ residents has come out is support for phasing-out diesel-run transport within 2020. Since tourism gives a major boost to the city’s economy (approximately 32 million tourists visited Paris in 2014), the decision to eradicate pollution & traffic in its major arterial roads may further cement its position as ‘world’s most visited city’. Now, Paris’ pollution isn’t as bad as the crises faced in cities like Delhi or Beijing, although European Commission sponsored-study on air pollution shakes up Europe’s green reputation. Luxembourg City, Amsterdam, and Glasgow are all stuck with failure in implementing ‘Low Emissions Zone’ for private vehicles.

Before hosting United Nations climate change conference in December, Paris has invited 1,000 mayors to discuss on role of cities in extenuating climate change. The city’s authorities have mostly urged the Indian mayors to participate in the discussion.


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