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Berliners enjoy cleanest air in major European cities: report

(Xinhua)

09:57, September 08, 2011

BERLIN, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) -- Residents in the German capital of Berlin are breathing the cleanest air in major European cities, as the municipality's consistent efforts to decrease soot and other particulate pollution paid off, according to a new report released here Wednesday.

Air contamination by soot has been cut by 50 percent in Berlin after the systematic implementation of car emission zones, said the German non-governmental organization BUND, which focuses on preserving nature and protecting the environment, in the report.

The Berlin municipality's comprehensive strategy to curb high pollution emitters and efficiently put the use of private cars at a reasonable level has significantly contributed to the amelioration of the city's overall air quality.

Statistics from the city's environmental office shows that the traffic-related exposure to diesel exhaust particulate matter in 2010 declined by 33 percent compared to 2009, and 52 percent compared to 2007.

"The proportion of car traffic on the road has shrunk by 6 percent, while the use of bicycles has doubled to 13 percent," said Werner Reh, a transportation expert for BUND.

"The top spot in the fight against harmful exhaust emissions can be pegged on the consistent implementation of the environmental zone in Berlin," he noted.

Reh said that Copenhagen and Stockholm, which share the second place in the ranking, boast much higher ratios of bicycle users -- 40 and 50 percent respectively, giving more leeway for Berlin to improve.

Zurich and Vienna came in third in the ranking, while two other German cities examined -- Dusseldorf and Stuttgart -- ended up on the bottom of the lists, the report shows.

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