President Michelle Bachelet unveiled an environmental clean-up plan here Friday that will target the Chilean cities with the worst air quality.
“It’s time to tackle this problem in all its complexity,” Bachelet said at the presidential palace.
The strategy will use the most modern approaches and feature concrete measures to respond immediately to the most urgent pollution problems, Bachelet said.
Chile is one of the Latin American countries with the highest levels of urban air pollution.
The main sources of that pollution are industrial emissions, the rapid growth in the number of vehicles on the roads and home-heating systems.
A total of 14 anti-pollution plans will be implemented, benefiting nearly 87 percent of the population in areas with low air quality, Bachelet said.
An environmental alert will be declared in the southern regions of Maule and Aysen, where a regional committee will be authorized to carry out emergency measures if necessary, Bachelet said.
Those potential actions include suspending the operations of the most polluting industrial plants, conducting inspections to prevent the burning of unseasoned firewood and canceling physical-education classes or outdoor sports activities, she added.
Business often complains about losses from restrictions prompted by concerns about pollution.
But Bachelet said the costs of pollution include $670 million a year in associated medical expenses and productivity loss.
As in the case of other government initiatives, this new plan will incorporate a citizen-participation process, the president said.
Bachelet, who served as president from 2006 to 2010, was elected for a second term last December and took office on March 11.