Friday, November 23, 2007

Air Pollution

Since arriving in Bogotá, I’ve had a cold off and on. Basically, I’ve been a little congested with a sinus headache at worst. I’m not alone. I meet and see many people who are blowing their noses and are stuffed up. The climate is partially to blame. It can be hot, cold, rainy, windy, blue skies, gray skies, cloudy, and clear all in one day. Sometimes it is all of these things at the same time depending on where you are in the city.

With that said, there is more to blame than mother nature. After riding the bus all day for my job and Spanish class in the evening I blow my nose. Then I look at the tissue and see a black residue. I think to myself, this can’t be good for my respiratory system. I read an article in El Tiempo yesterday that said there are about 20,000 buses running each day in the city. There are two bus systems in Bogota: Transmilenio and the older, smaller buses. Transmilenio is a fleet of extra-long red buses that have their own designated lanes for rapid transportation and avoidance of the perpetual traffic. On the normal streets and avenues there are large buses (buses), medium-sized buses (busetas), and vans or minivans (colectivos). Transmilenio costs 1400 pesos (US $ .80 aprox.) while the smaller buses cost 1000 to 1250 pesos (US $ .60 aprox.). (For more information on transportation you can visit a previous blog of mine). Most of these buses are full throughout the day, and overflowing at rush hours. You can see what I mean in the video below.

Thankfully for Bogotá, a city of over seven million people and growing, there are the tall green mountains that encompass the city as well as several large parks. The largest, Simón Bolivar Metropolitan Park, is five times bigger than Central Park in New York City. So why am I blowing black soot into a tissue? The answer is simple: the buses. Sure the cars play a significant part to the air pollution, but the buses are appalling. They run on diesel fuel that contains a high amount of sulfur, which is why many people I know have had bronchitis or other respiratory illnesses. The current diesel fuel contains 1,200 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur. The city’s environment ministers are proposing to cut the diesel fuel to 500 ppm of sulfur by next year and 50 ppm by 2010. Is this a good solution? I don’t think so. Sure, it will be better than what is happening now, but with today’s politics it seems as if the number of people and buses will keep growing. Cleaner fuel is not the best answer. I think Bogotá should try to emulate the train system in the country’s second most populated city, Medellín. (I’ve heard the reason Bogotá cannot change to trains is because the Mafia controls the buses. I have no proof, but I heard it from someone who has lived here for more than 40 years and is a reliable source). It is there that they have the Metro de Medellín as well as a Metrocable line in the works. However, even in Medellín the streets are becoming overcrowded with traffic. Nevertheless, a good train system is better than a good bus system. After all, who wants to have black soot in there nose?

Above is traffic a few blocks from my apartment on La Séptima, a major street in my neighborhood.


Go said...

From look at you tube that looks like about A 7 and 72???

Brett Garamella said...

Yes, it's the corner of Avenida 7 and Calle 72. It was probably filmed from Bolsa de Valores de Colombia or Bancafé.

David said...

I took this video from the cafeteria of the Microsoft Colombia office on the seventh floor of the Bancafé building at the corner of Carrera Séptima and Calle 72.

I'm glad to see there are other young Americans enjoying Bogotá. I didn't run into too many Americans when I was there in September and October.

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