Bolivians breathed a huge sigh of relief Sunday as the streets in major cities were cleared of all motorized vehicles. The air they were breathing was significantly cleaner thanks to the annual car ban.
Air pollution in La Paz fell by 72 percent on National Pedestrian Day, according to the office of Environmental Services. ‘’Noise pollution dropped to just 22 decibels which is significant considering the average is around 65 decibels,’’ said Nadiezna Godoy, administrator of Environmental Services in La Paz.
More than two million cars were taken off the streets in nine major Bolivian cities, with tens of thousands of people reclaiming the normally congested roads by taking part in more than 200 different activities ranging from gymnastics to tai-chi as well as dance competitions.
‘’It’s a great idea’’ Diego Hurtado told teleSUR. ‘’You can breathe much better and they should have it more often, every six months would be ideal.’’
Bolivia’s socialist government introduced car-free days in 2011 to get people thinking about the effects of air and noise pollution. Marking the event, President Evo Morales said it is the collective responsibility of everyone to care for Mother Earth.
"We call on everyone to continue to take care of our common home, so that future generations do not suffer the consequences," wrote Morales on his official Twitter account.
According to President Morales, "The National Pedestrian Day is a day for Mother Earth," asking Bolivians to "liberate it from pollution."
A report released by the World Health Organization in May confirmed that outdoor air pollution has grown 8 percent globally in the past five years.
According to a WHO database compiled from more than 3,000 cities, billions of people are exposed to dangerous air particles. The study said outdoor air pollution is responsible for more than three million deaths every year and is thought to be the biggest single killer in the world.