Green revolution sweeps Mexico



Agence France Presse

Published — Friday 16 November 2012

Last update 16 November 2012 3:38 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

A green revolution is sweeping across the car and concrete jungle of Mexico City, an infamously smoggy capital that was once dubbed “Makesicko City” by novelist Carlos Fuentes.
Residents are growing vegetables on rooftops, planting trees where buildings once stood, hopping on bicycles and riding in electric taxis, defying the urban landscape in this metropolis of 20 million people and four million cars.
“This is our vote for the environment,” said Elias Cattan, a 33-year-old bespectacled architect pointing to the lettuce, onions and chilies growing in a planting table and inside used tires on the balcony of his rooftop office.
“It’s a window to the future and it is very important that we reconnect with the earth,” he said as light rain fell on the sprouts atop the five-story building in the trendy Condesa neighborhood.
Like a growing number of chilangos — as Mexico City residents are called — Cattan bikes to work in a maze of roads renowned for their giant traffic jams.
Twenty years ago, the United Nations declared the Mexican capital the world’s most polluted city. Fuentes envisioned black acid rain in his novel “Christopher Unborn,” but in real life the air was so nasty that birds dropped dead in this megalopolis 2,240 meters (7,350 feet) above sea level.
While Mexico City still has high levels of pollutants, it has dropped off the top 10 blacklist, thanks to traffic restrictions and the closure of factories but also because other cities have become grimier.
The left-wing city government has carried out a “green plan” since 2007 to clean up the capital, but many citizens have also taken it upon themselves to change their habits.
The city has placed 500,000 plants across the city, expanded a popular bicycle loan program, opened a new subway line and launched an “eco” bus that runs on natural gas.
Electric, zero-emission taxis began buzzing in the city center this year. The vehicles recharge in power stations that get 25 percent of their energy from solar panels. Fully powered up, the cabs can run for six hours straight.
One of the taxi drivers, Cristobal Reynoso, said clients often realize they are in an electricity-powered vehicle only once they are in it. “It’s a thrill when I tell them it’s electric, that it doesn’t use fuel or anti-freeze, that it doesn’t have an exhaust pipe, because they say, ‘we’re not polluting!’” Reynoso said.
Citizens are playing their part too.
Many go to Chapultepec Park on the first Sunday of every month to trade their recyclables — empty bottles, paper, cardboard — for locally-grown produce such as tomatoes, corn and nopal (an edible cactus) in a city program.
A corporate-funded citizen initiative known as VerdMX has installed huge “vertical gardens” to spruce up the city and clean the air. One of its most visible structures is a green arch on the heavily-traveled Chapultepec Avenue.
Growing plants, fruits and vegetables here requires creativity and lessons. The city and private groups offer advice to those who want to learn how to plant in a building.
“It’s easy, fun and cheap,” said Liliana Balcazar, deputy director of the city’s environmental education centers that show people urban gardening tricks. “You can do it anywhere that gets at least five to six hours of sun per day.”
“It’s like being in the countryside inside the city,” Balcazar said, noting that it is also a great source of healthy, home-grown produce for a population facing an obesity problem.
Cattan has received help from Gabriela Vargas, a 43-year-old former photographer whose passion was born 12 years ago, when she planted vegetables in her balcony to make tastier, healthier food for her daughter.
“When I started 12 years ago, I was the crazy one growing lettuce in her apartment. Now it’s very common,” said Vargas, project director for Cultiva Ciudad (Cultivate City), which advises schools, individuals and institutions.
Vargas now sees bigger: She plants trees.
Last year, her organization donated 6,000 trees to various city districts that were grown inside the city.
Her new project is an orchard where she will grow apple, guava, peach and medlar trees. The city is lending her a 1,650-square-meter (17,800-square-foot) terrain where a high-rise building was demolished.
While the city is getting greener, the smog is still visible, often clouding the surrounding mountain peaks.
Though carbon monoxide levels are down by 90 percent from 20 years ago, the city still has above recommended levels of ozone and suspended particulates, another pollutant.
“The good news is that the trend has been a consistent reduction (of ozone) in the last 10 years,” said Armando Retama, director of the city’s air quality monitoring service. “If the trend holds, Mexico City’s contamination problem will be almost resolved in 10 years.”

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: The Saudi led-coalition fighting to reinstate Yemen’s exiled government aims first to set it up in Aden and then return it to Sanaa if possible via peace talks with Houthi foes, a coalition spokesman said.But if the Iranian-allied Houthis did...
RIYADH: Nine Omani Umrah pilgrims, on their way back home, were killed and 34 were injured, in a road accident which took place near Khurais, between Riyadh and Al-Ahsa province.According to police, the coach carrying the pilgrims collided with a tra...
JEDDAH: The Kingdom and Namibia have signed a protocol to establish diplomatic relations between them.According to SPA, the protocol was signed on Tuesday by Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations Abdullah Al-Mouallimi and his...
JEDDAH: Official reports reveal nationalization levels of medical and health workers in the Kingdom remain low, with Saudi nationals making up only 21.7 percent of physicians, 31.8 percent of nurses, and 67.4 percent of ancillary staff.According to t...
JEDDAH: The Saudi Food and Drugs Authority (SFDA) will begin receiving clearance applications for medicines and medical supplies, including drugs containing narcotic or psychotropic substances, for Haj missions or other government bodies on Saturday....
JEDDAH: Saudi importers of cattle said the Haj season this year will not see an increase in the price of livestock due to the stability of the local market and the available supply.There are also guarantees from exporting countries that required quan...
JEDDAH: At the upcoming elections the national identity card will be the only approved document used for identifying voters of both genders and allowing voters to exercise their electoral right, provided all statutory requirements are met.In a press...
JEDDAH: Education Minister Azzam Al-Dakhil has spoken of a new education policy which emphasizes the importance of harmonizing admission policies in universities with the needs of the labor market.Al-Dakhil made these remarks during a meeting with un...
JEDDAH: Local bottled water consumption during the summer, Umrah and Haj seasons this year will increase by 10 percent.“This translates into an annual growth rate of between 4 percent and 5 percent,” Rashed Bin-Zouma, a water industry expert, was qu...
RIYADH: Four Saudi secondary students including a young woman from the Eastern Province have received prestigious medals at the 47th International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO), which concluded in Azerbaijan last week.The winners of the four bronze medal...
JEDDAH: The UAE’s decision to lift fuel subsidies beginning in August has raised the possibility of other Gulf states following suit.Economists suggest a wide disparity of prices of gasoline in the Gulf countries will lead to more petrol smuggling op...
DAMMAM: The tourism industry in the Kingdom is witnessing great interest by authorities to develop the archaeological areas, promote their support services and create the best environment for tourism products, said businessman Abdul Mohsen Al-Hokair....
JEDDAH: The ongoing World Circus at north Obhur has brought smiles on the faces of orphans, with its show of acrobats featuring 20 performers and clowns.The orphans of Al-Rawdah district charitable organization said they found the circus entertaining...
RIYADH: The Nepalese ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Udayaraj Pandey, thanked the Kingdom on Thursday as he ends his four-year tour of duty in Saudi Arabia.Earlier in the day, he called on Riyadh Gov. Prince Faisal bin Bandar to pay him a courtesy call a...
RIYADH: Movies produced by young and amateur Saudi filmmakers will be shown on Saudi Television starting in the middle of next week.“The films will be shown daily to encourage young Saudi filmmakers,” said Abdulaziz Fahad Al-Eid, senior broadcaster a...

Stay Connected

Facebook