KEY POINTS

  • Milan and neighboring Turin have been facing air pollution and smog problems
  • The city of Milan is imposing a car ban on Sunday to help lessen smog
  • Milan's mayor acknowledges that the move will not provide a long-term solution

Italy’s fashion and design capital, Milan, is banning cars from driving within city limits on Sunday to reduce air pollution levels. This means that, on Sunday, residents and tourists in the city will have to get around using bikes, electronic scooters or public transport from 10:00 a.m. (9:00 GMT) to 6:00 p.m.

The measure is part of the city’s efforts to tackle smog and air pollution, problems that Italy has been facing particularly in Milan and Turin. The car ban is likely in response to a 2018 report by the European Court of Auditors stating that cars are a major source of urban air pollution and that banning their use is the most effective measure to tackle the problem.

That said, the move faced criticism from some, including the regional counselor for the environment, Raffaele Cattaneo. Even Milan mayor Beppe Sala acknowledges that the ban would not provide a long-term solution to the pollution problem.

Another measure that Mayor Sala is proposing is a smoking ban in bus and tram stops, which will expand to a complete smoking ban in open spaces by 2030. This plan is still up for submission in March.

In 2019, the city of Milan also prohibited the use of diesel cars within city limits from Monday to Friday. Italy’s capital, Rome, is also set to impose a diesel car ban by 2024 to fight air pollution, traffic and, to avoid further emission-related damage on historical monuments.

Smog Problem

Smog is a type of air pollution named for the combination of smoke and fog, with classic smog coming from burning large amounts of coal in an area. By the 1950s, a kind of smog called photochemical smog was first described as a type of smog that is produced when ultraviolet light reacts with nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere. It is most common in densely populated and warm cities.

Smog is a public health hazard that is particularly harmful to senior citizens and people with heart or lung conditions as it can inflame breathing passages and decrease the lungs’ working capacity. That said, even people who are not particularly vulnerable can be affected by smog as it can also cause eye and nose irritations, drying out the protective membranes and decreasing the body’s ability to fight infections.

Unfortunately, Italy is just one of the major cities of the world facing a recurring smog problem. In the United States, smog tends to linger over extended periods of time over densely populated cities such as Los Angeles, Houston and New York.

Bicycles With the ban on cars, the people in Milan will have to use bicycles, electric scooters or public transport to get around. Photo: Pixabay