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Dangerous air pollution

In many big cities in Asia, air pollution is dramatic. High population density and many old vehicles contribute to this. Some existing driving bans and the new environmental zone in Singapore could spur a rethink.

Asian cities are growing rapidly as more and more people move to the metropolises in search of work and education. In addition to increasing industry, the rapidly growing number of inhabitants and their rising affluence is also causing a huge increase in vehicles and traffic. Many large Asian cities are therefore plagued by smog and heavy air pollution.

The leader of the countries with the highest air pollution is India. In the big cities of Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta, for example, air pollution is enormous. But the inhabitants of other Asian metropolises are also exposed to air pollution that is very harmful to health, for example the people in Beijing, China, and in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. One in five deaths in India is attributed to poor air quality. In China, around 1.24 million people died from air pollution in 2017. The Air Quality Index (AQI), which is calculated from the concentration of different pollutants, is in some places 10 times higher than in many areas of Europe.

Environmental zones or restrictions on certain vehicles are still almost non-existent in most Asian countries. In Japan and South Korea, where electric cars are already widely used, there are already environmental zones. In Tokyo and Seoul, the capitals of Japan and South Korea, old diesel vehicles have been barred for some time. As reported yesterday, Singapore will now also introduce a ban zone for old motorbikes. The increase in environmental zones could have a signal effect on other Asian countries and lead to countries like India and China also introducing environmental zones.

In Beijing, the authorities have already been trying to reduce traffic since 2016 by introducing a toll and restrictions on the purchase and use of vehicles. The use of public transport at peak times should also become cheaper and thus more attractive. However, the reason for these measures is the enormous traffic congestion and traffic jams in the Chinese capital, not the reduction of air pollution.

In some Asian metropolises, therefore, a change in thinking must first take place in order to actually be able to reduce air pollution. Where industry is also heavily involved in air pollution, it would have to be regulated in the same way as private transport. Whether other countries will follow the existing and new environmental zones remains to be seen. It would be urgently necessary for the health of the citizen and the environment.