Economic Development and Environmental Protection in Latin America

By Joseph S. Tulchin | Go to book overview

17
Commentary

Rene Costales

Licenciado Menéndez has brought us up to date on not just the problems but also the emergency and medium-term measures that the Mexican government has implemented. Richard Nuccio discussed the congestion in some of the world's cities due to improper economic policies and the repercussions that they are having.This reinforces the fact that solutions to urban air pollution problems are related to the general macro- economic development models of the countries involved. He reminded us of Mexico City's water problem, which is intimately linked to its air pollution problem.We were also told that some of the measures necessary to improve air quality depend on the reforestation of the surrounding areas of the city, which will take a long time. Community organization may be one the keys to success in Mexico City in order to create the new ethic for reforesting the suburban areas.This is an important challenge.

I recently read a report on an economic study that measured what Los Angelenos were willing to pay per day to not be sick or not have headaches or trouble with their eyes.This was related to the amount of eye drops and cough medicines purchased, other medical expenditures, loss of employment opportunities, and loss of time at work. The study indicated that the benefits that could be derived from air pollution reduction were on the order of six or seven billion dollars.The Los Angeles case is interesting because the program that Menéndez described has a preliminary cost of approximately three billion dollars.

In any action program there are a multiplicity of measures that can be taken. For instance, about two years ago Mexican authorities decided to remove lead from gasoline.The result was insufficient octane in the gasoline and emission of unburned hydrocarbons in greater quantities. Through photosynthesis, this created the smog effect. The ozone levels then skyrocketed, so, in effect, a well-meaning measure taken on an

____________________
Rene Costales is a field officer in Panama for the Inter-American Development Bank.

-131-

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