Headache :: Growth in vehicle numbers in Asia posing pollution headaches

Asia’s economic boom including countries like India and China has caused a surge in car and motorcycle sales, undercutting efforts to promote public transport in the region and clean up its dirty skies.

While some Asian governments were praised for toughening vehicle emissions standards and most have phased out leaded gasoline, many of the region’s big cities are doing little to enforce laws or establish effective bus and train networks, they said.

“Transport is growing faster in most cities so transport emissions are a big part of the problem,” Lew Fulton, a transport expert with the United Nations Environmental Programme, told the three-day Better Air Quality Conference 2006 in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta.

“We’re not only seeing increases in pollutant emissions. We’re seeing huge increases in fuel consumption which is coupled tightly with (carbon dioxide) emissions,” he said.

The World Health Organisation said increased pollution in Asia is estimated to be causing as many as 537,000 premature deaths each year, as well as a rise in cardiopulmonary and respiratory illnesses.

Annual automobile production in India has increased by 20 percent each year since 2000, while China’s has grown eight-fold in 10 years to 2.6 million, and it is poised to become the world’s largest car producer by 2015, according to the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute, an environmental and economic think tank.

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