Is mountain air still so fresh?
A Film about air pollution in the Mont-Blanc area and the causes of this pollution. 5 measures, to be put in place as a priority to improve air quality locally, are detailed. People must now get involved if they really want to breathe an air that is no longer harmful to their health :
The petition (see text below) linked to this film was handed out to the Sub-Prefect of Haute-Savoie in May 2014.
THE 2013-2014 PETITION LETTER
To the Prefect of Haute-Savoie
The Arve Valley and the Mont-Blanc area suffer from poor air quality which is harmful to the health of the people who live here. This concern is widely shared and acknowledged, yet the Prefecture is slow to enforce all measures that could improve air quality locally, especially concerning the transport sector.
We ask you to implement the measures of the Plan of Protection of the Atmosphere of the Arve Valley (PPA), adopted on 16 February 2012, without delay, including the five priority measures below:
Load the most polluting trucks (Euro 3) on to the Savoie Alpine Rail-Road in the winter months, when pollution is at its highest, and ban them from Mont-Blanc tunnel. To stop these trucks from simply using the Fréjus road tunnel instead, ban them also from this route and load them on the Alpine Rail-Road too.
Broadcast information about air pollution peaks on all available Town Hall media.
Launch an information campaign to reduce the use of highly polluting open fire-places.
Create car parks and lay-bys to support car pooling.
Encourage cycling as a mode of transport.
The winter 2013-2014 must not be, like the previous ones, marked by the inaction of the Prefecture or its reluctance to tackle such key issues as air quality.
If all the measures, written into the PPA, were applied to all sectors responsible for the poor air quality in the valley of the Arve, the pollution could be significantly reduced within 5 years. Unfortunately this is far from being a reality today.
I hope that you will be sensitive to the concern I have for my health and that of my family and the people of our region. Counting on your understanding and willingness to act, yours faithfully.
The (not so) fresh mountain air
Air pollution is regularly over the legal threshold in the Arve valley, an area which includes the world famous ski resorts of Chamonix and Megève. The situation is so serious than a Plan of Protection of the Atmosphere was devised in 2010 to reduce air pollution in the area.
There are 3 main sources for this pollution: transport, residental and insdusty.
How bad is it ?
The air in the Arve area is as polluted as the air of the cities of Lyon or Grenoble, but thankfully not as toxic as the air in Paris.
A sensitive area
Steep mountain sides, deep valleys and temperature inversions, help trap pollutants on the valley floor, particularly in winter on sunny days, when the air becomes very still. This beautiful and sensitive area requires protection from air pollution and from mankind's heavy footing. Instead, on top of the daily life of the valley, house heating and getting around of its population, an additional 1 million cars and half a million trucks cross the Arve valley each year to reach Mont-Blanc tunnel, above the town of Chamonix, at an altitude of over 1.200m.
In the Arve valley, between 60 and 80 premature deaths are caused by air pollution each year (according to InVS - PPA report), for a total population in the area of 155’000.
- Road traffic is responsible for the emission of over 380 known pollutants, of which 114 have at least one Toxicological Value of Reference and 30 are carcinogenic.
- Diesel engine exhaust fumes are classified as carcinogenic by WHO.
- Road pollution has serious consequences on coronary illnesses, strokes, asthmatic and chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and lung capacity.
- Traffic pollution also reduces male fertility and sperm quality.
- Most of our exposure to particles occurs while in transport.
A plan with little effect
The situation is so serious that a Plan of Protection of the Atmosphere was agreed in 2012, with measures devised to reduce emissions from the 3 sectors responsible for this pollution: residential heating, transport and industry. Only a handful of these measures are effectively applied (wood-burning heating, garden waste burning and reduced speed limit for cars). Road transport and industry lobbies have managed to keep both sectors from having to change their ways and reduce their emissions. A shift towards rail transport is necessary - and possible - for goods transports through the Alps, on the nearby existing railway line, recently renovated, and the Alpine Railroad service.
No magic wand can be waved to solve the issue. We all need to reduce our emissions: people living in the area, visiting tourists, businesses in the area and international goods transport and industry sectors. This will not only reduce air pollution, but also climate emissions, which are a major threat to the local tourism economy, but also to water supply in Europe and to the very future of mankind.
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