From midnight on Monday, driving a diesel vehicle with a Euro rating of 3 or lower was banned in the Sottoceneri region of the Italian-speaking Swiss canton of Ticino. In addition, local authorities made travelling on public transport free.
Concentrations of fine particles per cubic metre of air reached alarming levels in Chiasso (126μg) Mendrisio (125μg), Bioggio (124μg) and Pregassona (84μg). The high pollution levels are largely the result of traffic and weather. Pollution readings at Como, Italy, the closest measuring point on the Air Quality Index website to the worst affected region, showed a very unhealthy reading of 223μg for PM2.5 particulates, at 10:30 am on Wednesday.
To combat the smog gripping the region, the maximum speed limit on major and semi-major routes was lowered to 80 km/h between Rivera and Chiasso (A2) and between Mendrisio and Gaggiolo (A394). Maximum heating temperatures of 20 degrees were introduced for public buildings in the Sottoceneri region. Unfortunately these measures were unlikely to bring air quality to the maximum healthy level of below 50 micrograms of particulates per cubic metre, reported 20 Minuti.
“The pollution which began to deteriorate at the end of last week was unforseable” said Claudio Zali, the region’s municipal director. “The problem is driven by multiple coinciding factors that we have not seen for 10 years”, he said. A strong temperature inversion, no precipitation, humidity, and air flows from the north, have come together to rapidly push up the air pollution level.
Free public transport is a national first. Since 5 am on Tuesday all Ticino regional trains, buses and other means of public transport have been free. Lost revenue is estimated at CHF 60,000 per day.
The diesel vehicle ban has forced an estimated 8,000 vehicles off the roads – 6,000 cars and 2,000 vans. Trucks are excluded from the ban.
It is hoped the weather will come to the rescue on Thursday, when it is predicted to rain. If this happens the ban would be lifted on Friday.
The region south of the Alps, which includes the Piemonte and Milan regions along with the Swiss canton of Ticino, is notorious for air pollution during winter, according to research by the European Environment Agency.
20 Minuti article (in Italian)