Cablegate: Air Pollution in Lima Worsening


DE RUEHPE #2322/01 1872224
R 062224Z JUL 07




Brasilia for Story

E.O. 12958: N/A

1. SUMMARY: A recent report issued by Peru's National Institute
for Statistics and Information (INEI) concludes that Lima's air
quality is deteriorating. For example, airborne lead particles have
increased by 119 percent compared with 2006. All of the air
pollutant levels for Lima are significantly worse than those of
downtown Los Angeles, and particulate matter (PM 2.5) levels are
more than six times higher than U.S. EPA standards. The city's
chaotic transportation is a principal reason for this pollution.
The GOP needs to address the factors that are linked to political
authority and municipal responsibility. The city is home to over
one-third of Peru's 28 million inhabitants, and the metropolitan
area accounts for almost half of the country's $93 billion GDP. End

2. A report issued in April by the INEI measured the following five
air quality components to determine the degree of pollution in
downtown Lima: total suspended particles (TSP), particles smaller
than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM 2.5), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2),
Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), and Lead (Pb) levels. All of these, with the
exception of TSP, are directly linked to vehicle emissions into the


3. In 2007, all five measures showed an increase compared to last
year's levels:
-- TSP was 257 micrograms/cubic meter;
-- PM 2.5 was 94.49 micrograms/cubic meter;
-- NO2 was 69.47 micrograms/cubic meter (up 7%),
-- SO2 was 63.66 micrograms/cubic meter (Up 19%);
-- Lead was 0.23 micrograms/cubic meter (up 119%)

Lima's PM 2.5 level is 6.3 times higher than U.S. EPA standards.
The air quality in Lima is much worse than in downtown Los Angeles
for all the pollutants measured: lead is about 50 times worse, NO2
is about 23 percent worse, PM 2.5 is about 6 times worse, and S02 is
more than 12 times worse (LA info source: U.S. EPA).


4. According to INEI, the main reason for this rise in pollution
has to do with the age and quantity of the city's vehicles. The
average age of public transportation vehicles is 22 years.
Transportation problems are not a novel issue in Peru. In a recent
report, the World Bank considered public transportation in Lima as
deficient and chaotic. According to this report, there are a total
of 10.5 million trips made daily in Lima, 81 percent of which are
made using public transportation, including taxis. Less than half
of the 56,000 public transportation vehicles currently operating are
authorized to do so. There is one taxi for every 42 people in Lima,
while in Buenos Aires, Argentina, there is one for every 233 people.

5. The constant vehicle emissions are concentrated in the central
area of the city, and it is estimated that between 70 to 80 percent
of Lima's pollution is caused by vehicles. The main causes cited by
the World Bank are: composition and age of the vehicles, lack of
emissions controls, excess supply of vehicles, low quality of fuels,
and bad traffic. The transportation system consists largely of
privately-owned late-model buses and taxis.

6. These vehicular problems cause 13.2 million liters of gasoline
to be needlessly used in Lima per year. The problems also cause the
emission of 1,000 metric tons of additional contaminants into the
air, particularly particulate material, Nitrogen Oxides, and Sulfur
Oxides. This high degree of environmental pollution generates a
high rate of respiratory illnesses, asthma and skin problems,
especially in children.

7. Beyond deregulating the transportation sector during the 1990s
(incentives were given for the massive imports of used vehicles from
Asia), the GOP has done little. A project for a much needed
emissions control facility was recently abandoned because of issues
in determining which government authority would supervise it.
Furthermore, some GOP policies have the opposite effect. The
government currently encourages dirty fuels by imposing higher taxes
on cleaner fuels such as 90 octane gasoline and lower taxes on more
contaminating fuels such as diesel.


8. Given that these pollution measurements show that Lima's air is
worse than that of downtown Los Angeles, it's no surprise that
residents here, including Embassy employees, experience increased
problems with asthma and other respiratory illnesses. However, with
social and poverty issues taking up the GOP's time, reducing air
pollution is not a government priority. The pollution control
problems are compounded because the GOP has not even defined roles
for its agencies regarding public transportation and the
environment. Coordination between the Lima and adjacent Callao
municipalities has also been traditionally limited. A broader
approach to reform is needed that will establish clear functions
between government entities, create incentives for renewal of
vehicles, and encourage rather than discourage environmental
conservation. Increased attention to environmental protection
embodied in the pending U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement (PTPA)
might help convince the GOP to focus more on improving the air
quality in Peru's capital.

© Scoop Media

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