By Maryam Qarehgozlou

Messy air pollution: transport sector largely at fault

February 11, 2018

Air pollution is the bane of urban dwellers. The suffocating air which is hard to breathe has actually caused a great deal of discomfort for the citizens in big cities around the world and is linked with serious and adverse health effects on top of everything.

Among numerous reasons behind air pollution the transport sector, mainly buses operating on fossil fuels, can be deemed as the main guilty party.

Globally transportation accounts for about 21 percent of greenhouse gasses. The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicated that transport sector emissions of carbon dioxide will increase by 92 percent between 1990 and 2020. Most importantly the age of the transport fleet, the technology used within it and the extent to which such vehicles are maintained as well as the availability of appropriate fuel can decide the amount of emission attributed to the transport sector. 

According to news pieces quoted from various health or environmental officials over 70 percent of pollutants in Iran’s capital, Tehran, is produced by clunker buses. In a press conference held on January 13 in Tehran, deputy environment chief Masoud Tajrishi said that some 97 percent of buses in Tehran are old. 

Moreover, on February 7 Mohammad Javad Heshmati, deputy prosecutor general, said that more than 80 percent of the air pollution in metropolises is caused by low quality fuel. 

So it is not so farfetched to conclude that air pollution in Tehran and other metropolises of Iran are derived from low quality fuel and the old transportation system.

To every sound mind the only way to address this problem is to increase fuel quality to meet international standards and renovating the public transport which entails budget allocation. This is while Majlis (the Iranian parliament) has sharply trimmed the budget proposed for the development of public transit by 50 percent last week.

Less than 20 percent of all buses sold globally meet the definition of soot-free with the vast majority being diesel-powered. Such buses produce high levels of black carbon emissions or soot which are among the most dangerous pollutants for public health and a major contributor to climate change. However, the cleanest buses today reduce these emissions by more than 99 percent.

Cleaner buses in megacities 

According to a press release published by United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in November 2017, four bus and engine manufacturers have committed to facilitate purchasing buses equipped with low emission technologies in order to target air pollution and climate change. 

The Global Industry Partnership on Soot-Free Clean Bus Fleets is an initiative being led by C40 Cities, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), and International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), Centro Mario Molina Chile and UN Environment. The commitment was announced at the CCAC Clean Buses for Clean Air Workshop in Paris.

Beginning in 2018 BYD, Cummins, Scania and Volvo Buses will ensure soot-free engine technology for 20 megacities worldwide. Abidjan, Accra, Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Casablanca, Dar es Salaam, Dhaka, Istanbul, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Lagos, Lima, Manila, Mexico City, Nairobi, Santiago, Sao Paulo, and Sydney are the cities involved in this scheme to tackle air pollution. 

Soot free is defined as including any engine that meets Euro VI norms and diesel engine with a diesel particulate filter, gas-powered engine, or a dedicated electric drive engine. 

Less than 20 percent of all buses sold globally meet the definition of soot-free with the vast majority being diesel-powered. Such buses produce high levels of black carbon emissions or soot which are among the most dangerous pollutants for public health and a major contributor to climate change. However, the cleanest buses today reduce these emissions by more than 99 percent. 

As Ahmad Taheri an official with Tehran Air Quality Control Company said on Friday some 60 percent of PM 2.5 fine particles in the city of Tehran are comprised of black carbon produced from fuel combustion in diesel-powered engines.

Black carbon is the sooty black material emitted from gas and diesel engines and other sources that burn fossil fuel. It accounts for a significant portion of particulate matter or PM.

Black carbon is a global environmental challenge that has negative impacts both on human health and climate. Inhalation of black carbon is linked with health problems including respiratory and cardiovascular disease, cancer, and even birth defects. Black carbon also contributes to climate change by causing changes in patterns of rain and clouds.

While eco-friendly buses are available to obtain cutting national budget for replacing the old and inefficient public transport is holding us back from using the world’s most recent technology to abate and mitigate air pollution in the country. The greener options are available and what is more important than citizens’ health? 

MQ/MG

Leave a Comment

9 + 4 =