By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
DEVELOPING ELECTRIC public transport in the canals could help solve two of Bangkok’s biggest problems – traffic congestion and air pollution, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) suggested.
On World Environment Day, which was marked yesterday, UNEP said a team of experts was now working with the Climate and Clean Air Coalition as well as the Pollution Control Department (PCD) on a project to assess the impact canal-based public transport can have on air pollution in the city.
Bert Fabian, programme officer in the Air Quality and Mobility Unit, said the international agency and its Thai partners are identifying the types and amount of pollutants being emitted from boats plying the canals in Bangkok.
The study aims to find a better alternative that can mitigate the air pollution from this mode of transport.
“Bangkok suffers annual bouts of severe air pollution and this previously unmeasured source may be a significant contributing factor,” Fabian said. “We want to improve the air we breathe, but we can’t do this without the best possible data.”
He ventured that once the operators replace their ageing, polluting diesel boats with electric vessels, the city’s network of canals would potentially offer a clean alternative and have a marked impact on both traffic congestion and air pollution in Bangkok.
Sonthi Kotchawat, a prominent environmental health expert, also said that discarding diesel fuel would be key to tackling Bangkok’s air-pollution problems.
“The transport sector is the largest source of air pollution in Bangkok and a recent study found that vehicle exhaust fumes contribute up to 52 per cent of the pollution,” Sonthi said.
He added that diesel engine exhaust is by far the worst pollutant as the combustion of diesel releases the highest amount of harmful PM2.5, very fine particulate matter, and other hazardous substances.
He also warned that the ultra fine PM0.1, which is even smaller and more harmful than PM2.5, is generated by diesel combustion as well, which further adds to the health hazard of toxic air pollution.
“The best way to tackle air pollution is by controlling polluting emissions at their source. So, the authorities need to come out with a clear road map to control emissions from all sources, especially in the transportation sector, in order to sustainably tackle Bangkok’s chronic air-pollution problem,” he said.
World Environment Day this year is marked the #BeatAirPollution theme in a move to highlight the impact of this serious environmental problem on people’s health.