It is heartening to hear of private citizens initiating green projects, not depending on government initiatives, to improve the quality of life for citizens of a highly polluted city.
One such project in Mexico City used a Change.org petition to gauge public support, then with private funding went ahead and gained government approval to begin greening a 27-kilometer (17-mile) section of a highly transited highway in the city.
Las plantas de los jardines verticales disfrutando de la brisa de la lluvia y creciendo cada día.Sigamos transformando…
An architect, Fernando Ortiz Monasterio of the firm “Verde Vertical,” initiated this greening project, which was co-signed by the Mexican government in July of 2016.
Monasterio intended to build vertical gardens throughout nearly 1,000 pillars along the highly transited highway called “Periferico.” A group of eligible corporations invested the 300 million pesos (US$15.1 million) needed.
It would seem that an iconic highway with bumper-to-bumper traffic and off-the-charts bad air would be the ideal place to launch an initiative that pairs smog mitigation with beautification—improving air quality and somehow making a concrete highway infrastructure more aesthetically appealing. But not everyone agreed.
— VIA VERDE (@viaverde_cdmx) January 16, 2019
“In Mexico City, almost all of our local pollution and mobility problems can be attributed to the excessive use of private cars,” Sergio Andrade-Ochoa, a public health coordinator for the Non Government Organization Liga Peatonal, said in 2018, according to The Guardian.
“We could just plant trees, but there’s a political fear of limiting the space in the city that is currently devoted to cars.”
Looking closely at the project’s goals and benefits as outlined by the project initiator, the petition outlined specific goals, promising to “produce enough oxygen for more than 25,000 residents, filter more than 27,000 tonnes of harmful gas yearly, capture more than 5,000kg (5.5 tonnes) of dust, and process more than 10,000kg (11 tonnes) of heavy metals.”
Some, on ATTN Facebook, praised the project in 2018, saying it was “a beautiful way to tackle air pollution” as well as create hundreds of jobs through the project’s design, installation, and maintenance.
Mexico has found a beautiful way to clean its polluted air.Check out ATTN: on Instagram: https://attn.link/2ReTrIK
Posted by ATTN: on Thursday, March 29, 2018
The Liga Peatonal, a non-governmental pedestrian advocacy group, said that the project has failed to live up to its environmental promises.
“The idea of turning a gray city green feels good to its inhabitants. But in reality it’s just aesthetics.
“At the end of the day, it’s not going to change the city,” Ochoa added.
Additionally, only a few species have the capacity to purify the air in the way that the Via Verde petition indicated, and the succulents as well as other plants that Verde Vertical favors for their low maintenance needs are not among them.
Through a drip-irrigation system and using rain, Via Verde plans to make the vertical gardens last a long time. The project also brings color to the city and tackles the growing green-area deficit.
According to Mexico City: A Knowledge Economy, “Vertical gardens serve as air filters and regulate heat, reducing temperature by as much as eight degrees outside and can decrease as much as ten decibels of noise pollution.”
Despite living in a “very gray” Mexico City that local folk have been accustomed to, Monasterio likened the feelings of seeing green vertical gardens, in an urban landscape, as a breath of fresh air.
“As soon as we find a park, a green landscape, we realize our mood changes,” Monasterio told Reuters.