SANTIAGO – Chile declared an environmental emergency after air pollution levels reached critical levels Sunday.
The local administration, however, assured this will not affect the Copa America soccer championship, currently being played in Santiago and other cities around the country.
The emergency was declared after three consecutive days of pre-emergency, where the government was unable to bring down the pollution levels.
The emergency declaration will affect 40 percent of vehicles with catalytic converters and 80 percent of those without.
The ban will come into effect at 07:30 local time and end at 21:00.
Activities at 3,000 polluting industries will be suspended as will be outdoor activities.
Exempt from the ban are activities in Santiago as part of Copa America, including training sessions.
“Copa America responds to Chile’s international obligations, so it will not be called off, but we hope that these levels won’t remain between now and Wednesday,” explained Santiago regional governor Claudio Orrego.
The next Copa America match is scheduled for Wednesday.
“People’s health is at stake here, the atmospheric and climatic conditions are really bad for Santiago,” he added.
Orrego said the existing situation was due to the lack of rainfall (this is the driest June since 1986) resulting in bad air circulation in the area.
Santiago, home to 6.3 million inhabitants and located in a valley surrounded by mountains, is one of the most polluted cities in Latin America, especially in autumn and winter, owing to the absence of breeze to disperse the polluting particles and the thermal inversion effect.