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Ecologically sustainable transport

Ecologically sustainable transport

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Published by V.P.Jain

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Published by: V.P.Jain on Apr 02, 2007
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Page 1 of 14 
 ECOLOGICALLY SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT: 
 Issues and perspectives
V.P. JAIN
 
Abstract
The paper focuses on the growth and pattern in ownership and use of motorized vehicleswithin the framework of sustainable development. There is a considerable evidence todemonstrate that the current mega-trends in transport are at odds with the imperative of maintaining ecological balance. An attempt has been made to substantiate the argument  from the empirical evidence available, especially in the Indian context. A variety of  policy strategies have been suggested to reconcile the economic objectives of transport with the attendant environmental concerns.
 
INTRODUCTION
Recently, transport questions have increasingly been addressed in the context of ecologically sustainable development (Banister and Button 1993, Button, Nijkamp andPriemus1998). Transport is, today, positioned in the conflicting role between economicand environmental interests. Transport, as an infrastructural support is a pre-requisite for economic development. An efficient transport system enhances production andconsumption and promotes quality of life. A robust transport system improves theaccessibility of all the regions in a country, while simultaneously being consistent withenvironmentally sustainable outcomes. Transport can promote production andconsumption but also has an intricate linkage with the environmental quality of theseeconomic activities. The environmental effects of transport itself are enormous. Transporterodes the natural resource base of an economy besides polluting the environment in a big way. Half of the current world oil production, for example, is consumed by motor vehicles alone. The world over, energy use and transportation are the two maincontributors to ozone and green house gases, besides polluting urban air in a big way. 
Transport
 
Mobility Trends
The world, today, has a fleet of more than 600 million road vehicles, wheregrowth has constantly outpaced that of the human population. Since 1950, the globalvehicle fleet has grown tenfold and is expected to cross the one billion mark by the year 2025. Urbanization, which has reshaped the world’s landscape since the Second WorldWar, invariably means more vehicles and more travel. Within a metropolis, trip distances become longer as new housing colonies spring on urban outskirts. Currently, the vehiclefleet is concentrated in the high-income economies of the world. If current transport policy patterns continue, the motor vehicle kilometer traveled in OECD countries isexpected to increase by 40 percent by 2020. The problem is going to be furthecompounded by a similar upsurge towards mass motorcar ownership in Asian cities. Inthe 1950’s only a small elite owned private vehicles in Asia. However, by 1970,e-mail:vpjain28@rediffmail.com
 
Page 2 of 14 
Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore had more than 50 cars per thousand, and thenumbers had crossed 100 per thousand for Tokyo. Delhi adds 500-700 vehicles everyday,taking its vehicle population from 2.35 lakhs in 1975 to 37 lakhs in 2004, the increase being heavily skewed in favour of cars and two wheelers. The number of cars which wasonly 1.57 lakhs in 1984-85 rose to 8.41 lakhs in 1998-99 and is expected to cross the 25lakh mark by 2009-10. India, not only, now produces three times the number of cars itmade eight years ago, but the number of models has increased ten fold over as manyyears. For the Indian consumer, the options to acquire a car keep getting better. From athree model line-up in the 1980’s, the market has now exploded with new choices comingup every day. Today, a new car model is being introduced every couple of months, fastestgrowing segment being luxury cars. Table 1 shows the rapid growth of registered vehiclesin India from a meager 0.3 million in 1951 to 60 million in 2002.
Table1-Total Number of Registered motor vehicles in INDIA (in thousands)Year as on31
st
March195119611971198119912000®2001(P)2002(P)Two-wheelers2788576261814200341183855641478Cars, jeepsand taxis15931068211602954614370587571Buses345794162331562@634@669@Goodsvehicles821683435541356271529483045Others
*
4421708972533531957956100
Allvehicles3066651865539121374488575499158863@
includes omni-buses ® Revised (P) Provisional
Note: * Others
include tractors, trailers, three-wheelers (passenger and goodsvehicles and other miscellaneous vehicles which are not separately classified)
Source:
Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (2000),
Motor Transport Statistics of India1999-2000.
There is, however, an intricate link between economic growth and transport behavior which explains current mega-trends in mobility patterns (See Table 2).Historical data suggests that, throughout the world, traffic volume (motorized mobility)grows in tandem with the increase in personal income. As average income increases, theannual distance traveled per capita increases more or less in the same proportion. InOECD Europe, on an average, one point increase in GDP (Gross Domestic Product) has been accompanied by an increase of about two points increase in road freight mobilityand one and a half points increase in private car traffic. The developing countries of Asiae-mail:vpjain28@rediffmail.com
 
Page 3 of 14 
exhibit a similar trend. It is not surprising that Delhi, which has the highest per capitaincome in the country, accounts for a vehicle population equal to the combined strengthof Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. It is observed that, on an average, people devote a predictable fraction of their income to transportation. In developing countries, thisfraction is typically around 3-5 percent, where people rely more on non-motorisedtransport. The fraction tends to rise with automobile ownership, stabalising at 10 to 15 percent The industrial nations belonging to OECD have already completed thisautomobile transition. In future, developing countries will contribute a rising share toglobal traffic volume as their average income is expected to grow faster than those of OECD nations.In India, the sale of passenger cars has already crossed the one million mark in theannual domestic market, which is growing at the rate of 20 to 30 per cent. However, thetrend can not be explained solely by the growth of the economy, which is booming onlyat rate of only 6-7 per cent. The phenomenon has emerged primarily due to spurt in theincome of the rich, reduction in taxes and duties on cars, softening of interest rates andeasier availability of bank loans to both rural and urban sectors. According to CSOestimates the retail loans as a percentage of disposable income have increased from 3.5-4 per cent in the year 2000 to 8 per cent in March 2004.
Table 2: Relationship between transport growth and economic growth
CountryNumbers(in thousands)Per capita GDP(in US dollars ppp) Number of VehiclesPer 1,000 peopleUS132,43235,600740Japan6243826,100640Germany42,84025,900570FRANCE28,06024,400520UK25,02924,500410Brazil13.8277,400190Australia9,98124,000610Korea7,9084,00032China5,1064,30021India4,5652,50030Sourse: Anon, Transport Statistics of Great Britain,2002; Anon, CIA Word Fact book,2002; Anon,Automotive Industry2001 and beyond 2001; Anon, Asia pacific cooperation,2003; E A Vasconcellos, UrbanTransport, Environment and equity-the case for developing countries, Earthscam Publications Ltd, London,2001.
Even though many countries have tried to manage transport within the confines of ecological boundaries, it has been more than offset with a structural rise in spatialmobility. In most countries not only road traffic has more than doubled in past twodecades but the trend is particularly skewed in favour of private cars, and trucks. Since1970 fleet of road vehicles in the world has averaged 4.7 per cent for cars and 5.1 per e-mail:vpjain28@rediffmail.com

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