Smog blankets Alps

The long period of high pressure has resulted in a smog cloud settling on the French and Swiss alps below 800 meters altitude. The pollution alert reached 9/10 (bad) on Saturday as thousands of tourists crossed the region heading for the ski resorts. The French love of diesel cars doesn’t help matters. However road transport is not the only culprit. The fine particle cloud is also the result of domestic heating and industrial emissions such as waste incineration.

smog in the alps
Smog in the Arve valley yesterday

On Wednesday the Rhone-Alps took the decision to limit traffic speeds to 110km/h on autoroutes and 70km/h on trunk roads. The Swiss environment ministry went further, imploring the chain smoking Swiss not to spark up over the weekend. The authorities warned people suffering from respiratory problems (asthma, bronchitis) to remain indoors and not to indulge in any physical activity. The fine particles, less than 5 µm, can penetrate deep into the lungs and are carcinogens.

The episode has broken records beating ‘75, 85 and 88-89. You may have noticed the pollution yourself if you are in the Alps. Burning eyes, soar throat and a dry cough. Not the kind of environment you would normally associate with the mountains under their pristine white coating of snow. New European guidelines on atmospheric pollution were adopted in France at the end of 2007 which will mean more such alerts in the future. Increased speed checks and pollution controls have been announced.

Environmental awareness is also increasing in the French alps which has two major road tunnels at Frejus and Chamonix. 70% of energy consumption for ski resorts is the result of road transport and heating for holiday makers, ahead of ski lifts and snow canons. Extreme skier Élisa Giacomotti, who headed a long campaign against the reopening of the Mont Blanc tunnel for road transport, is a candidate for mayor in the forthcoming elections in Chamonix. She promises to continue her campaign to rid the valley of trucks.

Further Information

Posted by davidof on Monday, 18 February, 2008 at 08:03 AM

How anyone in government gets away with making this valley a major trucking route is beyond me. I don’t know that a mayor can do anything - all regional mayors from Geneva to Aosta were against the return of the trucks but the federal and EU government were the ones pressuring for the re-opening.

It was absolutely disgusting in Chamonix until yesterday when it got cloudy and a sprinkle of snow fell. Looking down on the valley from the ski areas it was clear we were living in our own waste matter. Worse than pigs ...

But that stupid tunnel rakes in boat loads of money every day ... and the trucking unions are strong.

Posted by  on  Friday, 22 February, 2008  at 02:46 PM

What do you think of Élisa Giacomotti? It kind of amuses me that she has an interest in a heliski operation but complains about trucks.

The smog alert was finally lifted here in the Geneva basin yesterday and the sky is much clearer, thanks to the rain.

The Daube did a similar article yesterday

L’air de nos montagnes est-il vraiment si pur ?

Of course it is not just the trucks but the number of people living in the valleys with energy inefficient housing.

Posted by davidof on  Friday, 22 February, 2008  at 04:06 PM

And the friggin’ Hummers and 4x4 giant fuel inefficient vehicles that the ex-pats have started to import to drive up the ever-expanding motorway to their giant new (often poorly insulated) chalet on it’s postage stamp-sized piece of land (recently built in a previously marked avalanche zone or previously designated green space or farm land).

I wish Cham would go like Zermatt and ban cars at the border ... I don’t know much about Élisa Giacomotti. I don’t have the right to vote in the local elections, as I am not an EU national ... so can only watch from the sidelines. The party likely to get elected will be the ones in the pockets of business concerns, sadly. And Charlet is not going anywhere, really - he’s staying involved in politics only at a higher level (regional) so he can funnel even more of this business into the Cham property developer’s pockets.

I don’t think anything will change - the out of control building boom in Chamonix, all the old farm areas being re-zoned as constructible, the SHON increased etc. is completely ruining the look of the valley and overcrowding it, and the type of people the high property prices attract has brought more city people who are unconcerned with the mountains except as a product to exploit or use up on their holiday and toss out when they leave. Slightly in a bad mood this evening but ... that is my opinion.

Posted by  on  Saturday, 23 February, 2008  at 12:32 AM

When you look at towns like Grenoble you have to wonder what goes through the minds of politicians. In Grenoble they are currently celebrating 40 years since the Chamrousse games and are hoping to bring them back to the town in 2018. The mayor says it is necessary to “develop his town”. With almost every piece of land built on from Crolles to Voiran you wonder just how much more development the town can take. It is already a super community of nearly a million people, most of whom take to the roads each day to get to work. Porche Cayennes and even the odd Hummer seem to be the car of choice for the “executive” types who live in the region. I reguarly see these people stuck in ditches because the vehicles are completely unsuitable for driving on icy mountain roads.

What’s more incredible are idiots like Jean “megawatt” Therme, the head of the Grenoble Atomic Energy Commission and pioneer of the huge state subsidised Miniatech. Therme wants to build a “high tech megapole” -the so called sillon alpine stretching 200km from Genva, Annecy, Chambery to Grenoble. His model is Germany’s Ruhr valley. According to Therme “economic metropoles are spotted by investors at night from space thanks to satellite images, the more light there is the more they are interested”. That must account for all the churches and cliffs lit up by night by floodlights that one sees from the autoroute.

Posted by davidof on  Saturday, 23 February, 2008  at 10:28 AM

Oh and an excellent article on the effects of the 1968 Olympics

Les saignées des anneaux - link in French

Posted by davidof on  Saturday, 23 February, 2008  at 10:32 AM
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