How corruption is hurting Mexico City’s efforts to tackle air pollution

5/5/2016 The Conversation 

AerialViewPhotochemicalSmogMexicoCity_2On March 15 this year, Mexico City encountered its worst environmental crisis of the last decade. A gray fog, comprising noxious air pollutants, cast a shadow over the sprawling metropolitan area for two days. Vehicles were ordered off the roads, and people were asked to remain indoors.

The solution sought to redress the city’s pollution problem was presented two weeks later and has already attracted considerable attention from the international media. Martín Gutiérrez, head of Mexico City’s environmental agency Comisión Ambiental de la Megalópolis, announced that the city’s residents who own private cars are going back to a program first instituted in 1989 called Hoy No Circula(One Day without a Car). The restrictions on vehicle mobility mean that all privately owned vehicles will be off the roads once a week and on one Saturday a month, from April 5 to June 30.

The government had previously abandoned the program due to its proven inefficiency, and, among the city’s residents, the readoption of Hoy No Circula has been viewed as an unpopular approach to manage Mexico City’s undeniable environmental issues.

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Mexico proposes raising limit on marijuana for personal use

4/22/16 CBS news

marijuanaMEXICO CITY — Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said Thursday he will ask Congress to raise the limit on decriminalized marijuana for personal use to 28 grams, or about one ounce.

Previously, only possession of five grams, or less than a fifth of an ounce, were exempted from prosecution.

“This means that consumption would no longer be criminalized,” Pena Nieto said. Possession of larger amounts would be punishable under drug trafficking laws.

“We Mexicans know all too well the range and the defects of prohibitionist and punitive policies, and of the so-called war on drugs that has prevailed for 40 years,” Pena Nieto said. “Our country has suffered, as few have, the ill effects of organized crime tied to drug trafficking.”

“Fortunately, a new consensus is gradually emerging worldwide in favor of reforming drug policies,” he said. “A growing number of countries are strenuously combating criminals, but instead of criminalizing consumers, they offer them alternatives and opportunities.”

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U.S.-Mexico Teamwork Where the Rio Grande Is but a Ribbon

4/22/16 New York Times

Rio_grandeBIG BEND NATIONAL PARK, Tex. — There are places in the desert canyons of far West Texas where the border between the United States and Mexico amounts to an olive-green ribbon of water, so shallow that canoes scrape to a halt on the rocks. Here the Rio Grande — the border that has separated the two countries since 1848, with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo — narrows to a pinch. At times it is as wide as a school bus is long. At other times it is not even that wide. An owl can make the crossing with one or two flaps of its wings.

In these remote places in Big Bend National Park, the Rio Grande seems void of any power to divide. There are no boundary lines, no signs, no walls, no border agents on either side. To journey here to the vast, empty canyons of West Texas is to watch the border itself all but vanish as a physical and political space, an extraordinary feat in these times when the notion of the border often seems more a political construct than a geographic one.

Consider Los Diablos and the cane burns of the Rio Grande that played out this month. Los Diablos are a team of Mexican firefighters who are part of a group of Mexicans and Americans including firefighters, conservationists and park rangers. They travel along the most desolate stretches of the river not to put out fires, but to set them in a controlled burn meticulously planned to kill giant cane, a tall bamboo-style invasive grass that grows in dense patches on both sides of the river. The cane chokes and helps narrow the flow of the Rio Grande, which contributes to the frequency of flooding and to the burying of habitats for native plants and fish.

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In Mexico City, The Return Of Terrible Smog

4/13/2016 NPR

AerialViewPhotochemicalSmogMexicoCity_2Springtime is usually beautiful in Mexico City. As the weather warms, the purple jacaranda trees that line boulevards and dot neighborhoods are in full bloom. Everything is prettier, says Fernando Padilla, a driver taking a break in a park.

“It’s my favorite time of the year,” he says.

But this spring, his eyes are watering, his throat hurts and one day a week he’s not allowed to use his car on the road, which means he’s poorer too.

Julieta Mejia Cabrera, 10, isn’t happy either. Today she got to go to the park, but since the anti-smog plan has gone into effect, she says everyone at her school has to eat lunch inside their classrooms.

“We can’t play with our friends,” she says. “It’s so boring. It’s like being at home.”

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Polluted days in Mexico City lead to expensive Uber rides

4/8/16 The Washington Post 

uber2Uber surge prices soared as Mexico City doubled down on its car ban Monday in an attempt to quell rising pollution rates. Uber prices rose as high as 10 times the typical price, in reaction to restrictions that require that 20 to 40 percent of the area’s cars be off the roads during high pollution days. The surge in pricing is also compounded by commuters who chose ride-sharing services in lieu of walking or waiting for the bus to avoid the intense smog.

Many Mexico City residents have taken to Twitter to voice their concerns, according to Quartz, which picked up the story from Spanish news source Plano Informativo. One such Twitter complaint came from soccer star Alex Diaz Liceaga, who said he paid 1,400 pesos, roughly equivalent to $79, for a single ride.

Some demanded that the company apply a pricing cap for bad pollution days, but Uber responded in a statement that the surge-pricing mechanism ensures that the supply of drivers grows to meet demand. It argued that it was responsible for about 100,000 people getting more rides during a high pollution period last month. It also encouraged people to use UberPool, the company’s carpool service, for cheaper rides and reaching a larger population of customers.

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Cuban Doctors Assess Health Programs in Mexico City

The Cuban flag3/20/2016 teleSUR

During the visit, Cuban doctors signed other health agreements of collaboration with officials in Mexico City.

Cuba’s Health Ministry sent a delegation of doctors to Mexico City in order to assess the impact of the program “The Doctor in Your House,” Mexico’s Health Ministry said on Sunday.

The delegation visited during a week various hospitals and homes of “vulnerable” patients in order to observe the type of medical attention provided in situations of “vulnerability.”

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Mexico City Issues First Air Pollution Alert Since 2005, Report Says

AerialViewPhotochemicalSmogMexicoCity_2For the first time in 11 years, the Mexico City government declared an air pollution alert Monday after ozone levels reached twice the acceptable limit, the Associated Press reported. The city’s government credited the conditions to a high-pressure system and intense sunlight.

The alert issued Monday requires older and more heavily polluting vehicles to stay off the road Tuesday and limits the highly polluting industrial processes. Officials recommended that people stay indoors and not perform vigorous exercise outdoors, as ozone is a part of smog that can cause respiratory problems.

While a rule was previously introduced to discourage cars over 8 years old amid Mexico City’s regular, high smog levels, that rule had recently been relaxed by a court order, according to the AP. Environmental activists and officials have argued that it has led to more cars on the streets.

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