Morelos, Mexico’s second-smallest state but, in terms of population density, one of its most built-up, understands the importance of coordinated efforts to combat air pollution.
Just 90 kilometres south of Mexico City, Morelos is part of the “Megalopolis”, the largest urban area in Mexico encompassing Mexico City, the State of Mexico, Puebla, Hidalgo, Tlaxcala and Queretaro, which present much economic and social exchange.
“This region presents a significant problem in terms of air pollution; therefore, the participation of Morelos in the solution is key,” said Morelos Governor Graco Ramírez.
The region is introducing ProAire Morelos (2018-2027), a data- and health-based series of comprehensive programmes that integrates measures to reduce emissions from the main sources in the state, based on detailed diagnosis.
Where ambition is concerned, by 2027, ProAire Morelos is expected to reduce (based on 2014 levels):
• nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide emissions from mobile sources by 20 per cent;
• nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide emissions from stationary and area sources by 20 per cent; and
• PM10 and PM2.5 (fine particulate matter of 10 micrograms and 2.5 micrograms respectively) generated by all sources by 15 per cent.
It includes measures, among others, to:
• reduce the emissions of industries and increase their energy efficiency;
• reduce emissions from household solid fuel combustion, agricultural burning and forest fires;
• regulate sources such as brick kilns and material banks;
• conserve and avoid change of land use; and
• reduce emissions from vehicles through the design of a mobility master plan for the state.
Importantly, it also includes the health impact assessment of air pollution and the construction of an Epidemiological Surveillance System to continuously monitor these impacts.
Those impacts touch the lives of almost two million people who live in Morelos, the vast majority residing in its three metropolitan areas.
Morelos’ air pollution issues vary according to the pollutant: automotive vehicles are the main sources of nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide emissions; household solid fuel combustion (10.7 per cent of homes use wood or coal for cooking and heating) and agricultural burning are the main sources of emissions of PM10 and PM2.5; and industries are largely responsible for sulfur dioxide emissions.
To tackle emissions from this broad range of sources, the region of Morelos collaborated with governments at different levels, academia, civil society and the private sector, while continuing to implement a broad range of relevant ongoing policies and initiatives to transform energy use, conserve ecological assets and improve solid waste management.
Since 2012, it has:
• created the first low emission zone in Mexico, the Ecozone of Cuernavaca, to reduce air pollution and exposure to pollutants in the centre of the city, carrying out a study to generate a baseline of personal exposure to air pollutants in the area in order to assess the impact of the zone’s implementation;
• strengthened the Atmospheric Monitoring System of the State of Morelos (SIMAEM) in order to generate sufficient data to evaluate air quality;
• prepared the 2014 base year Air Pollutant Emissions Inventory, with which the main emission sources in the entity were identified; and
• introduced the state’s first centralized and automated system for the evaluation of pollutants emitted by vehicles.
Morelos’ efforts to improve air quality will continue largely under its ProAire programme, which was designed and developed by a committee of representatives from civil society, academia, the private sector, and municipal, state and federal government institutions— the Core ProAire Committee.
The Core Committee now has the responsibility to assess the implementation of planned measures and actions, constantly update them, and communicate progress to citizens, whose participation the state considers crucial to ProAire’s success.
To engage better with citizens, Morelos’ government intends to craft a communication strategy with the aim of raising awareness and achieving cultural change within the population.
Ultimately, it is hoped that the population adopts recommendations to protect their health while also taking action to reduce emissions, becoming jointly responsible for improving air quality.
Other priorities are to strengthen and expand Morelos’ air pollution monitoring network coverage and research capacity to evaluate both air quality and anti-pollution measures, strengthen the legal and institutional framework, and strengthen the green fund, among other financing mechanisms, to ensure that planned measures are implemented.
Currently, Morelos is carrying out its first health impact assessment due to air pollution in the state, in collaboration with the National Institute of Public Health.
“This is important, since the main goal of any measure to improve air quality is to protect the health of the population,” said Governor Ramírez.
That perspective puts Morelos at the forefront of global air quality efforts, as the region joins BreatheLife with much to share, now and in the near future.