The drop in air pollution is an “eye-opener” and now is the time to cut unnecessary commuting, according to a prominent architect.

Andre Pizzuto, the vice president of the Kamra tal-Periti, is not surprised at the 50 per cent drop in the amount of Nitrogen Oxide (NO2) in the air resulting from the drastic drop in traffic, as the partial lockdown keeps people off the streets.

Now is the time to change mindsets and for the government to promote alternative modes of transport, he said.

“The amount of commuting we do is having a significant impact on our quality of life and the environment. We need to change our lifestyles and our focus on using cars,” Pizzuto said.

“If we wanted to increase cycle use, now is the time to do that. I don’t think things will return to what they were but we should use this opportunity to promote public transport and other alternatives.”

Last Saturday, Times of Malta compared air pollution data, from the Environmental Resources Authority, for February 19 and March 19. NO2 levels had dropped by more than half.

Companies should be using technological options to reduce the number of employees having to make an unnecessary commute between workplaces and meetings, Pizzuto suggested.

He said there was also scope for re-addressing the way towns were planned. The road network currently emphasises commuting between locations.

“We have large shopping centres built outside of towns and we have laid more roads encouraging people to drive to them,” he said.

“We should really be shopping locally, buying our produce locally. Instead, we are driving two kilometres to the nearest supermarket.  

“If our towns were properly planned, we would not need to do this. These are long-term issues and it is generally difficult to turn the wheel on this.

“We are at a standstill right now. But there is an opportunity,” he said.

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