Dubai's traffic pollution among world's worst

Study finds road pollution six times worse than some American cities.
Dubai's traffic pollution among world's worst
By Rob Corder
Fri 07 Mar 2008 04:01 PM

Dubai's choking traffic jams are contributing to some of the world's worst air pollution, according to an study by Dubai Municipality.

The city rank among the worst in the developed world using an On-road Vehicle Emission Measurement device, which assigns a percentage score for the levels of harmful pollutants including hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and carbon dioxide.

Over a 10-month period from May 2007 to February 2008, Dubai scored 13%, compared to 2.5% in Virginia, 2% in Michigan, and 4.7% as an average across Canada.

The scoring system assigns a higher percentage based on two variables: the volume of cars on a road during the testing period, and the level of emissions from each vehicle.

On both counts, Dubai scores badly in comparison to developed cities: there are more cars on the road at any one time, and each car is spewing out more pollution.

Dubai Municipality conducted the survey at 43 locations across the city in cooperation with Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) and Dubai Police.

The study was conducted in order to amass data that will help define future pollution-reduction measures in the city.

Engineer Redha Hassan Salman, head of the environmental protection and safety section in the Environment Department of Dubai Municipality, who oversaw the study, said the problem was bad and getting worse.

"Two factors point to a worsening air pollution situation in Dubai - the rapid pace of urbanisation and motorisation. Dubai's statistical data showed that motor vehicles increased by an annual average of about 12 percent. Dubai has about 541 vehicles per thousand population, which is higher than New York (444), London (345) and Singapore (111)," Salman said.

Salman said there has been an increase of 30% in the number of vehicles in Dubai from that of the 2005 figures (465,000 vehicles including 5,000 taxis).

"Vehicles in Dubai take 3.1 million trips a day, which is expected to increase to 13.1 million trips a day by the year 2020. This is precisely the reason behind embarking on such a project to know the percentage of vehicles exceeding the emission limit compared to other countries of the world," he added.

Two solutions need to be found at the same time: reducing the number of journeys made by car, and reducing harmful emissions from each vehicle.

Salman welcomed the creation of mass transit systems such as Dubai Metro, but said that these initiatives need to be accompanied by a move to get the worst polluting cars off the road. He suggested that cars more than ten years old should be banned.

Currently, 17% of the petrol vehicles and 24% of diesel vehicles on Dubai roads are more than seven years old.

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