These are the reasons why the worst air quality in Bogotá is to the south and west

The district government declared an air quality emergency due to forest fires in the eastern hills of Bogotá – credit Antonio Cascio/Reuters

Bogotá faces a worrying environmental situation with a marked increase in concentrations of particulate matter, reaching regular and bad levels, especially in the western and southern areas of the city and the town of Chapinero.

Thus, The Ministry of the Environment has declared a phase 1 alert for the southwestern area of ​​the city due to the high concentration of PM2.5 and PM10 particles. These are micromolecules that contaminate the air that citizens breathe.

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Air quality in Bogotá on January 25 – Iboca credit

Particulate matter, known as PM, is a solid or liquid polluting compound that remains suspended in the atmosphere and its increase in the capital’s air is attributed to the forest fires that have affected Bogotá for five days. However, emissions of these particles come from different pollution sources, not just fires.

According to an article in issue number 170 of the Eafit University magazine, PM is classified according to its size, with PM2.5 and PM10 being the most relevant particles. PM 2.5, being smaller, penetrates deeper into the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, causing greater health effects.

The people who live in the invasion zones in the eastern hills, in the town of Chapinero, are some of those most at risk of having their health affected – credit Antonio Cascio /Reuters

Although the averages of the last 10 years indicate a downward trend in the concentration of particulate matter in Bogotá, According to the District Environment Secretariat (SDA), there are critical areas in the city. These areas are, especially, in the south and west of the city.

It is there, Eafit’s research mentions, where factors such as industries, roads, traffic, high population density, as well as erosion processes converge; All of these make it an area more likely to present high levels of contamination.

Kennedy and Bosa, the areas with the worst air quality in Bogotá – credit to the Mayor’s Office of Bogotá

Recently, emissions from fires have been added to this equation, which makes the situation in the towns of Kennedy and Bosa more critical. Meanwhile, the northeastern area maintains lower levels of pollution due to less accumulation of all the actors described above.

Researcher Jorge Pachón highlights the heterogeneity in the city in Eafit’s research and states that, although the general averages are acceptable, there are significant problems in the southwest of Bogotá. According to the capital’s rainfall record, areas such as Kennedy, Bosa, Ciudad Bolívar and sectors of Fontibón and Engativá tend to be drier and this absence of rain contributes to the accumulation of particulate matter, exacerbating the situation.

There are fewer trees per inhabitant in towns like Bosa or Ciudad Bolívar – credit Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters

Another aspect that can contribute to cleaning the air is trees, but in this area there is also a disparity: there is a notable deficiency in the southwest of the capital. According to data from the Botanical Garden (JBB) and the District Planning Secretariat from 2019, It is estimated that, on average, for every three inhabitants in the city there is half a tree; although it is not an equitable measure, since the proportion of trees per inhabitant varies significantly between different locations.

Precisely, calculations by the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce with JBB figures indicate that while in the town of Santa Fe there is a quantity close to two trees per person, in Bosa, for example, it is observed that around seven people share a single tree.

This is how trees are distributed in Bogotá – credit Bogotá Chamber of Commerce with data from 2019

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that there should be at least one tree for every 3 people in urban environments. In the case of Bogotá, only the towns of Santa Fe, Teusaquillo, Chapinero and La Candelaria meet this standard, having the appropriate number of trees to follow the WHO recommendation.

Meanwhile, authorities continue to closely monitor air quality and take measures to counteract adverse effects on residents’ health.

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