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News > Latin America

Extreme Smog in Santiago Prompts Chile to Call State of Emergency

  • Santiago has long struggled with high levels of air pollution.

    Santiago has long struggled with high levels of air pollution. | Photo: Reuters

Published 30 April 2016

Chile's environmental ministry is urging Santiago residents to avoid outdoor exercise. 

Chile declared an environmental state of emergency in the capital Santiago Saturday, due to extreme levels of smog.

The Chilean Ministry of Environment imposed measures in order to mitigate the city’s air pollution, which includes restrictions of vehicles driving in the city limits, as well as efforts to encourage residents to use public transportation. 

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City officials said that the decree will remain in place until 9:00 p.m. local time and have recommended residents to avoid outdoor exercise.

Santiago has long struggled with some of the country's highest levels of air pollution. The entire city is contained within the Santiago Basin – a valley sandwiched between the Andes and a smaller mountain range. During periods of low rainfall or limited wind, the basin has a tendency to trap air pollution.

According to the country's latest emissions report, carbon emissions have increased by 83.5 percent since 1990, making them the second-largest per-capita climate polluter in Latin America. 

In 2014, Chile became the first country in South America to approve a carbon tax because of concerns about the potential impact of climate change on the country’s extensive glacier system.

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