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Monterrey: The environmental wake-up call

In Monterrey, blaming cars for chronic pollution has become an easy consensus, led by the example of Mexico City. Yet with motor traffic locked down, the smog still lingers. Ana Regina Avila finds the air is at least clear enough to perceive some hard environmental truths.

I live in one of the most polluted cities in Mexico and Latin America, and I’m not proud of it. The population of the Metropolitan Area of Monterrey has doubled within the last 10 years and without an efficient transportation system, the number of cars increased exponentially too. Now, why do I bring this up in the context of the global pandemic?

In Monterrey we started to practice the social distancing policy in mid-March and with-it schools, universities and businesses started to send everyone to do home office. The use of cars in the Metropolitan Area dropped 60%, but through the special monitoring devices we have seen that still we face the same amount of pollution in the air. Why is this happening?

Low cloud in Monterrey. Creative Commons photo by Oscar Montemayor

The government has focused on blaming cars for the polluted air that we breathe every day. Our local congressmen and congresswomen started to talk about implementing the same policy that Mexico City has, that is to group cars depending on the ending of the license plate and giving each group a day of the week in which they can use the car.

Only few people talked about the pollution that the industrial and cement factories produced, but with the city being in a lockdown and 60% fewer cars in the streets, we have now seen that the pollution is not majorly done by us, but by the factories.

We have been able to become more conscious on other important topics as well, such as social inequality, but now many people are starting to think that we have to pressure the government to do something not only about cars but also about the businesses that are equally or even more responsible for our polluted air. We cannot let these companies keep teaming up with our corrupt government and we need to pressure our representatives as well to find a solution to sanction these actions.

It has taken an extreme scenario such as this quarantine to make us realize that we have lots of problems to solve. And I’m grateful that the truth has come out finally and that we have solid evidence to start a real environmental movement inside our cities. Many other places have also shown how nature is improving during lockdowns, and I hope that someday Monterrey can become an example as well for other citizens on what can be done to decrease pollution.

This story was shared by Ana Regina Avila who is a student of Political Science in the University of Monterrey, Mexico. Find her on Twitter here.

How do you experience living in your city under Coronavirus? Share your story and join us to Spread stories, not the virus.

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