Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pedestrianisation promotes road safety and clean air

Chin Cabrido

The Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) recently closed the Hanumandhoka Durbar Square from all kinds of vehicles as part of the government’s initiative to preserve the monument zones and reestablish the World Heritage Site as pedestrian friendly area. This aims to secure the safety of people walking in the city.

In Kathmandu, large section of population prefers to walk. In fact, 18.1 percent of daily trips are made entirely on foot, and of the nearly 56.5 percent of the commuters who use different modes of public transport, a large percentage walk as part of their daily commute. However, inadequate planning has lead to many unnecessary fatalities and injuries. According to study conducted by Kathmandu Valley Mapping Program (KVMP), pedestrians represent up to 40 percent of all fatalities in Kathmandu City in 2001.

The Clean Air Initiatives for Asian Cities and Clean Energy Nepal proposed for the implementation of exclusive zones for non – motorized transit within congested urban zones based from the results of its walkability survey. What KMC has done is something that we must applaud for. Urban cities with improved land use and transportation planning deliberately include pedestrianising streets to contribute to good health and quality of life. Based on a study made by the WorldWatch Institute, a short, four-mile round trip of walking helps reduce 15 pounds of pollutants in the air that we breathe.

The heritage walk project in Hanumandhoka Durbar Square motivates people to take action to improve Kathmandu’s air quality. It reminds us that walking is the most socially inclusive mode of transport and is available to most people, regardless of age, gender, education or income. When you walk, you contribute to the creation of a healthy environment by reducing traffic congestion, air and noise pollution and creating a safer, more social and liveable community.

It also creates a good impression for many visiting tourists in this country that there are safer and quieter roads that is designed entirely for the people. Pedestrian facilities that create safe and attractive environments with a range of amenities will encourage walking and attract visitors to these areas.

Pedestrian-friendly urban design is one of the key enabling conditions for effective transit systems. It tends to lower crime rates and accidents. With the segregation of people from vehicles, the safety of pedestrian and transportation abilities are greatly improved.

The concept of pedestrianisation is relatively simple, its benefits almost immediately apparent, but its implementation is hardly easy. This is not only under KMC’s turf, it is everybody’s responsibility that road security practices are being followed to ensure that safer and quieter roads bind us all.

The Hanumandhoka Durbar Square displays a wide area of clean and quiet road exclusively for pedestrians.

Families enjoy the morning walk around the historical landmarks.

Walking in Hanumandhoka Durbar Square promotes cleaner air and healthy lifestyle.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Some Solutions to Reduce Emissions from Transport Lie outside Our Cities – Case Study of India

Sudhir Gota

Developing countries are at a crossroads as current decisions and investments in the transport sector are set to lock-in GHG (CO2) and air pollutant emissions for the next decades. There is reason for concern as sustainable transport policies that incorporate air quality and climate change are being developed and implemented at a slow pace, risking irreversible damage to the environment and people’s welfare. This is further aggravated by the global economic recession, which has lead to economic stimulus packages in developed countries for roads, the automotive industry, and related transport infrastructure. If developing countries follow this lead by prioritizing vehicles instead of people, it is certain that CO2 emissions, air pollution, congestion, and other transport related problems will worsen.
It has been analyzed that, based on a business-as-usual scenario for motorization in India, the main trends from 2005 to 2025 are:
· The number of total vehicles would grow at 8.70% per year, an increase from 49 million to 246 million between 2005 and 2025.
· CO2 emissions from road transport would increase at 7.75% per year, which is higher than many other Asian countries, from 203 million tons in 2005 to 905 million tons by 2025. Passenger transport represents 45% and freight transport represents 55% of total CO2 emissions from road transport in 2005; this ratio would remain approximately the same in 2025.
· PM emissions from road transport would decline until 2025 by 1.88% per year due to the adoption of stricter fuel and vehicle emission standards, while NOx emissions would increase at a rate of 2.37% per year. However, PM emissions would subsequently rise again due to the continued rapid vehicle growth, especially if emissions standards are not further tightened (Euro IV and above).
· Only about 22% of total CO2 emissions from land passenger transport in India are attributed to intracity movement in these 29 cities. It is probable that the remaining 78% of CO2 emissions come from other 498 cities (India has a total of 527 cities with over 100,000 people but limited data are available) and movement of passengers and freight from one city to another (intercity transport).
  • If the current city trip mode share is retained, CO2 emissions would increase 2- or 3-fold between 2008 and 2025, due to a rapid growth in urban population and in the number of trips.
  • If the cities are able to increase the current non-motorized transport (NMT) and public transport trip shares by 5% each with a reduction in motorized transport share, the CO2 emissions in 2008 would reduce by 9.16% and 6.21%.
A simple sketch analysis of intercity transport contribution to India’s total CO2 emissions from road transport indicates that a 442 km stretch of 4-lane national highway may approximately correspond to the total passenger transport emissions from intracity movement in Bangalore. Similarly, CO2 emissions from intracity passenger transport in Delhi are comparable to a 772 km stretch of highway.
The high emission from traffic in National Highways needs to be tackled by the government to reduce the environmental impact. The reason for relatively high emissions from national highways is that freight transport dominates the highways (52% of the vehicle mode share) whereas 2- and 3-wheelers are more present on typical urban roads (about 40% of vehicle mode share). Because 2- and 3-wheelers are more fuel efficient and emit less CO2 than larger vehicles, emissions from urban road transport are relatively lower compared to highways. A second reason could be high empty truck movements due to inefficiencies in freight logistics. Nearly 88% of the truck fleet is under unorganized operators.
Key recommendations for government and stakeholders are as follows:
  1. Policies and projects should have a stronger focus on making cities livable and accessible for people, rather than on just improving the flow of vehicles in cities, by integrating transport demand management (i.e. reducing the number of trips made and distances traveled), public transport, and non-motorized transport into urban development and transport policies.
  2. Policies and projects should aim to reduce CO2 and air pollutant emissions from the outset, thus creating a low carbon and emission transport system, rather than adding emission mitigating measures to transport policies and projects after they have been designed. Land use and urban planning is critical in influencing transport demand and behavior thereby reducing the emissions thus improving the health.
  3. Indian cities are not maximizing the density influence to reduce the emissions. Many cities which are dense are showing high emissions because of insufficient public transport and high influx of private vehicles. Many Transit oriented development initiatives are being taken by city governments, but much remains to be done on land use-transport-environment integration.
  4. The National Highways carry a huge amount of traffic. Considering high emissions from road based mode of transportation, the government needs to revise feasibility and environmental impact assessment (EIA) guidelines to include emission quantification and mitigation measures in the selection of projects.
  5. Urgent attention is needed for freight transport, which currently contributes to 55% of road transport CO2 emissions. Most freight vehicles use diesel fuel which contributes to relatively high PM emissions and black carbon (“soot”), which in addition to being an air pollutant is considered a major contributor to global warming. Both urban transport and freight transport should receive equal attention.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Fuel Quality in Asia & Philippines Today

Preeti Jain

Continuing with the challenge for a balance towards policies and practices for achieving cleaner fuels in Asia, I do agree that for Asian context we cannot simply follow what developed countries are doing, but then at the same time we need to ascertain that there is no compromise on socio economic and environmental benefits. Asia with nearly ~60% of world population holds wide economic disparity among countries in the region and there is enormous burden especially on the developing countries to meet the growth targets in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner. In a wide array of factors responsible for affecting environment, fuel quality and emission norms are essentially important to manage air pollution. Looking at the chronology of fuel quality development in Asia, most of the countries in the region are on the march towards cleaner fuels; however still there is a key question; how to achieve a balance in policies, practices and their effective implementation in an economically efficient manner. There is indeed a strong correlation between fuel, vehicles, refineries producing them and financial framework to upgrade fuel quality. However, it is important that we first understand where we stand today, what are our unique strengths or weaknesses and how we can adapt with respect to the external environment. Taking a glance on cleaner fuels in Asian context first, for pollution abatement today the fuel quality regulation needs to be combined with vehicle emissions standards to frame the country specific roadmap.

Among Asian countries; Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong have taken a proactive role towards Euro 4 standards and beyond; followed by carefully planned action plan by India, China and Philippines to adopt Euro 4 standards nationwide. However, still there are many Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam that have only road maps for Euro 2, while countries including Bhutan and Cambodia, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri-Lanka do not even have any formal fuel quality or vehicle emissions road maps in place. The planning and implementation for removal of lead from gasoline had been remarkable in the Asian subcontinent. However, when it comes to sulphur levels (Figure 1,2) [1] there is still a contrast in the approach in the region where countries like Japan switching to ultra low sulphur content and at the same time we have countries still struggling to move ahead and manage with Euro 2 fuel quality standards.

If we look at the quality specifications of Euro 2 & Euro 4 gasoline fuel; aromatics, sulphur and benzene are the main components that need to be capped. However, in case of diesel fuel, it’s more complex as sulphur reduction involves substantial investment for refining industry. Moreover, in new generation Euro 4 vehicles the use of high Sulphur fuel may poison the catalytic converter and thus the envisaged benefits from the vehicle technologies may not be attained. This discussion holds special importance in Asian context where diesel consumption for on-road vehicles is much more (50%) than ECD countries (34%) or even World total (37%). Moreover, the higher growth for diesel vehicles in these countries is attributed to the favorable tax incentives to diesel being commercial fuel used in trucks, transit buses and other transport as well.

Even in the case of Philippines, diesel is mainly used in public and transit vehicles including jeepneys, which is a problem as they emit higher levels of particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen due to less stringent fuel quality and vehicle technology lack particulate and NOx traps. Though for diesel fuel Cetane number, density, distillation characteristics and PAH content are important but to enable functioning of emission control devices (ECDs) fitted in the diesel vehicles sulphur content of the fuel is the most important parameter. The sulphur level which is currently 500 ppm for Euro II in Philippines need to be reduced to 50 ppm for Euro 4 to maximize the benefits of vehicle technology for reducing the emissions and attain ambient air quality benefits.

To meet Euro 4 target there are certainly technological and financial hurdles, as fuel quality and vehicles technology is not just domain of one industry rather it’s a business preposition of different stakeholders. Whenever we talk about cleaning up vehicles in developing countries, we need to consider and understand role of various technologies and requirement of fuel quality to achieve the end motive of cleaner environment. Besides, cleaner fuels will have a better impact with both new and old generation of vehicles to reduce emissions. There is indeed a price for the incremental costs, estimates show that for meeting fuel sulfur in Asia would cost 0.2-0.8 US cents/L for gasoline and 0.5 – 0.8 US cents/L for diesel, with additional 0.6 cents/L for further reductions to 10 ppm or below for diesel fuel [2]. However, going back to the rationale of cleaner fuels for better environment and public health, there is a time to plan and act now. The path to reach cleaner fuels may be complex but at the end of day if we see the long term benefits; there is certainly a call to keep the marathon on towards achieving cleaner fuels…because it is ultimately us who has to take the decision….

"We generate our own environment. We get exactly what we deserve. How can we resent a life we've created ourselves? Who's to blame, who's to credit but us? Who can change it, anytime we wish, but us?" - Richard Bach

1. International Fuel Quality Centre,

2. A Roadmap for Cleaner Fuels and Vehicles in Asia; 2007 Asian Development Bank and Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities Center Inc.