As urbanization and motorization are taking an increasingly larger toll in environment and public health in Asia, over 20 mayors from 14 Asian nations pledged Tuesday here to work together towards environmentally sustainable transport.
The mayors and delegates from Japan, South Korea, Singapore, China, India, Thailand and other nations agreed in a declaration that "they will commit to implementing policies and strategies to address key issues in Environmentally Sustainable Transport (EST), " such as strengthening public transport and eco- and people- friendly urban transport.
The declaration will " help make a city a nice place to live in, " said Mihir Kumar Mohanty, mayor of Bhubaneswar, India, at the conclusion of the two-day Asian Mayor's Policy Dialogue for EST in Cities.
The declaration also urged that issues such as transport demand management, non-motorized transport, road safety and maintenance, noise and emission should be actively attended to so as to realize environmentally sustainable transport. The cities also called for inter-city cooperation and share of knowledge, technology in environmental and transport sector.
The dialogue is successful in achieving "exchange of information and experiences on EST among participating cities, and raising awareness on EST subjects, "said Kazunobu Onogawa, director of the United Nations Center for Regional Development.
While unsustainable transport may lead to problems in air quality, congestion, noise, energy security, accidents, economic efficiency, global climate change, loss of living space and other concerns, EST offers a cost-effective way forward that affords high levels of mobility and access but without the intrinsic problems associated with car-dominated streets, according to United Nations Center for Regional Development.The concept of EST includes issues range from public health, traffic noise management to cleaner fuel and social equity and gender perspectives.
"Tranportation is part of the integrated social system and it cannot evolve all by itself, " Prof. Katsutoshi Ohta of Japan's Toyo University told Xinhua, "therefore, proper solutions in transportation problems largely depends on social improvement," he said.
As an example of successfully transport management, delegates from Singapore presented a speech on how the city control automobiles with Vehicle Quota System and cut road congestion with Electronic Road Pricing at restricted areas.
The South Korean capital Seoul also shared its successful experience on "Weekly No Driving Day Program". "Some 635,000 cars in Seoul have voluntarily joined the program," under which drivers can enjoy certain discounts in auto tax, parking fees and other things in exchange for no driving in one workday of the week, Mok Yeong-Man, Seoul's assistant mayor for air quality said at the presentation.
Several tourism cities, with the host of the dialogue Kyoto included, discussed their solutions to traffic congestion during tourist peak. Besides, cities from developing countries also shared their concerns on traffic control, road safety, public transport infrastructure construction and environmental issues on the background of economic growth.
"The quick economic advancement in Asia has brought urbanization, motorization and heavier environmental burden," Tomokatsu Kitagawa, parliamentary secretary of Japan's environment ministry said at the opening of the dialogue on Monday.
According to statistics, the number of automobiles in Asia has increased 2.7 times in the past two decades. However, the economic losses by air pollution in Asia also accounts for around 10 percent of its regional GDP.
The International Energy Agency estimates that the number of vehicles in Asia would surpass that in Europe and North America by 2040. Therefore, efforts to enforce cleaner fuels and emission standards would probably be offset by the rapid growth of automobiles in the region.
Efforts to promote EST in Asia started in recent years, with dialogues, meetings and forums on the issue being held in past three years in the Philippines, Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia and other places in Asia.
The dialogue is co-organized by U.N. Center for Regional Development, ASEAN Working Group on Environmentally Sustainable Cities, Japan's environment ministry and Institute for Global Environmental Strategies. A number of experts from international and regional organizations and universities, also joined the discussions.