Could giant-sized fans blow away Mexico City’s contaminated air? Not likely, says the mayor.
Claudia Sheinbaum ruled out a proposal to install fans to disperse pollution in the city on Friday, saying the possibility had been seriously considered.
“It’s an option that has been studied a lot, and it’s not a viable option,” she said. “In reality, to reduce pollution, we need to address the sources of pollution, which in the case of the metropolitan area has to do with vehicles, industry, and recently, high temperatures and wildfires.”
The idea originated in the 1990s when it was proposed by Heberto Castillo, an accomplished engineer and left-wing activist.
Castillo, who was running for the Senate at the time, described his proposal in an article for El Universal on February 24, 1992. Admitting that it sounded absurd, Castillo described a system of three tunnels that would run under the mountains, connecting the Valley of México with the valleys of Toluca, Cuernavaca and Cuautla.
Castillo said that running fans in the tunnels for 60 hours straight and then for one hour a day would keep air pollution levels at under 100 Imeca points. The Environmental Commission of the Megalopolis declares an Environmental Contingency when pollution levels reach 150. In the early ‘90s, it was common for air pollution to rise above 300 points.
Castillo conceded that such a system would not address the root cause of air pollution, but defended it by saying that it also would not preclude other efforts to fight it.
“For example, when a kitchen fills up with smoke, using an exhaust fan doesn’t resolve the problem of the creation of smoke, but it does allow the housewife to breathe clean air,” he wrote.
He estimated that such a project would cost around US $100 million, only about 2.2% of the city government’s budget for the remainder of the term.
Heberto Castillo died five years later, in 1997. He is better remembered for being a founding member of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD).