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This article in The Geographical Review focused on air pollution caused by ‘megaurbanization’ in less-developed countries such as Mexico. The authors feel that Mexico City is a perfect example of this kind of megacity. Mexico City had one-half million people in 1900, whereas it continues to grow so that today one in four Mexicans lives in Mexico City, with a population of twenty-two million and a growth rate of 4 percent. In the valley of lakes where present-day Mexico City resides, the deterioration of the physical environment is nearly catastrophic. Nevertheless, the economic and day-to-day survival issues take precedence over environmental issues.
“Both physical geography and topography contribute significantly to the high concentration of certain pollution in Mexico City,” the authors conclude. Physical factors such as surrounding mountains, elevation above the sea, year-round sunshine, and descending air and reduced upper air movement, winds, high concentrations of roads, railroads, industry and squatter residences contribute greatly to air pollution. Ozone forms on the ground levels from vehicle exhaust and refinery emissions. High ozone levels tend to spread throughout the metropolitan area because of prevailing winds. Also, low atmospheric pressure forces toxins to bond in human lungs more readily. Though 80 percent of the air pollution is from vehicle exhaust, the inability of that exhaust to escape is a result of the physical geography of the area as well as the topography. Thus, in the Valley of Mexico, high elevation, local relief and poor air circulation compound the effects of pollution in the valley.
I learned from this article that city founders throughout history might not have been able to anticipate the future problems that city and surrounding areas would encounter. Mexico City attracts vast amounts of people and millions of vehicles, a deadly combination for a city built in a basin at that particular elevation. In addition, industrial costs soar as the pollution worsens. Countries that trade with Mexico will be at the effect of higher costs as the pollution increases.