The Plan of Protection of the Atmosphere

Faced with disturbingly high air pollution levels, with 3 major pollutants exceeding the set limits for health protection, the Prefect of Haute-Savoie announced the establishment of the Plan of Protection of the Atmosphere for Arve Valley (PPA) in September 2010. The draft plan, with input from several environmental protection and health associations, came into being when it was officially adopted by the Prefect in February 2012.

However, since then, despite dozens of measures being available under the PPA, only a handful have been implimented and even fewer are actually enforced. In addition, the measures that have been applied mainly concern citizens (speed restrictions on the motorway, heating, green waste disposal and fireworks). The highly polluting freight transport and industry sectors have used their lobbying powers to remain exempt from any effort to reduce emissions.

At this rate, the PPA clearly has no chance of achieving its goals in its five year lifespan. If enforced more strictly, the PPA would, within five years, make excesses of PM10 and NO2 limits in the Arve Valley a thing of the past.

Outline of the PPA

A particularly sensitive area

Emissions of fumes in the Arve valley are no higher than the Rhône-Alpes average, but it's the topography and winter weather patterns make pollutant dispersion particularly tricky.

Pollution levels exceeded

Pollution sensors in Passy record regular excesses of particulate matter (also known as PM10) and benzo(a)pyrene (BaP). Sensors in Chamonix record regular excesses of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and, less frequently, particle matter (PM10).

The main pollutants and their sources

3 sectors are responsible for almost all of the emissions generated in the Arve Valley : transport, residential and industrial. These sectors must all play a part in reducing emissions here.

Health implications

The air quality in the valley of the Arve is comparable to that of major cities in the Rhône -Alpes region, which has a direct impact on life expectancy. According to the Cellule de l’Institut de Veille Sanitaire en Région Rhône-Alpes (InVS) study, "...the current knowledge on the health effects of air pollution conclude that the pollution levels measured in the Arve valley have health implications for the exposed populations. Short-term effects will occur shortly after exposure  and include eye or respiratory tract irritation, asthma attacks and cardiovascular complications leading to hospitalization. Longer-term effects are the development of pathogenic processes that can lead to chronic disease or even death."

InVS Recommendations

"To protect the health of the population, overall pollution levels over the whole area need to be reduce all year round, and for all pollutants. Air pollution generates health risks even when regulatory standards are met, and it is background pollution rather than the peaks which mainly contribute to poor health."