Talca, a city of 280,000 people and the capital of the Maule region in Chile, joins the global BreatheLife campaign with ambitious goals and a clear vision for cleaner air.
Chile’s determined push for cleaner air is driven by the administration of President Michelle Bachelet. When Bachelet took office in 2014, she made tackling air pollution a major national priority. As Chile leads the way internationally with Santiago Respira, a flagship BreatheLife city, the city of Talca is contributing to the nation’s broader effort with a plan that reflects Talca’s unique culture and geography.
In Talca, the main source of pollution is smoke from wood fires used for home heating. Wood fires are responsible for 76 percent of particulate matter emissions, a particularly harmful type of air pollution. The air quality gets bad during the winter months, when people turn to wood fires to warm their homes.
With these causes in mind, Talca’s air quality strategy is focused on reducing smoke from firewood. The strategy includes measures such as improved weatherization and thermal insulation of homes to lower heating demands, and overhauling wood stoves and replacing outdated heaters.
One of the key measures that Chile has taken as a whole is empowering the government to declare special restrictions on emissions during periods of especially poor air quality. In Talca, during the winter months of April 1 to September 30, emissions standards for both houses and vehicles will be subject to stricter standards on poor air quality days.
In Talca these efforts are already showing results. In 2013, before the air quality plan was adopted, officials observed 199 hours where air quality reached “emergency” levels. In 2016, there were only five hours.
“I am very satisfied with the results obtained during 2016,” says Maria Eliana Vega, Seremi del Medio Ambiente, Región del Maule. “I am pleased to see how the joint work of the citizens and the regional government have allowed us to reduce air pollution and improve the quality of life of Talquinas families. Our commitment is to continue implementing and promoting the measures established in the PDA (Plan de Descontaminación Atmosférica ) so that Talca can breathe fresh air again.”