Many announcements were made in a single week by the Departmental Council, the Auvergne Rhone-Alpes Region and by the Minister of the Environment… One thing is clear: the citizens mobilisation of December and January, as well as the media coverage of recent months regarding air pollution in the Arve valley, have succeeded in bringing the subject to the top of political agenda.
The Department of Haute-Savoie seems to finally recognise the seriousness of the public health problem of air pollution. It announced a further €18 million, clearly earmarked for specific measures regarding the residential and industrial sectors as well as new cycling lanes. Unfortunately, the Department continues at the same time to work for the development of the road network in Haute-Savoie, with announcements made this week about the doubling of the Annecy bypass. The numerous road projects planned in Haute-Savoie will worsen the situation and increase emissions from the transport sector, already responsible for 20% of particulate emissions and 70% of nitrogen dioxide emissions locally.
The President of the Auvergne Rhone-Alpes Region, Laurent Wauquiez, rushed to Bonneville on the eve of the Minister's visit to Chamonix to announce his «massive plan of €45 million over 3 years». Much of this money was undoubtedly already allocated in various on-going programmes. The additional funds are not clearly identified in the Region’s brief communiqué and in any case, have not yet been voted on by the Regional Council. There are a few reasons to be cheerful though. For example, the announced support for the production of biogas from household waste and the confirmation of the wish of the Region to create a loading platform for the Alpine Rail Road near Lyon.
We were able to work directly with Ségolène Royal's Cabinet ahead of her visit to Chamonix on 25 February and make numerous proposals to improve our air quality. The Minister met with representatives of ARSMB and Environn'MontBlanc during her visit here. Many of the announcements she made are too vague to be analysed but overall she promised an additional €15 million. We have already sent her cabinet a follow up letter to ask for answers and committments on several key issues. Just like other politicians, the Minister announced an increase in funding for the wood-burning heating fund. This measure has become a convenient obsession for all our decision makers. Attacking other sources of pollution, such as transport and industry, would require much more political courage...