Traffic jams continue to exacerbate air quality in Metro Manila with 76 percent of air pollutants coming from vehicle emissions, a study by civic group Kaibigan ng Kaunlaran at Kalikasan revealed. The study covered 16 cities and one municipality.
Not only is this costing the country and Filipinos billions in potential income everyday, traffic congestion in Metro Manila is also contributing largely to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, according to the study.
Inhalation and ingestion of pollutants from mobile sources can cause diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease and stroke.
The study was conducted over a period of two years and completed recently with support from non-profit group Clean Air Asia, scientific research institute Manila Observatory, and independent professionals.
Other “area” sources, including burning refuse, street-side cooking, and construction work, account for 20 percent of air pollution, while only four percent is attributed to “industrial” sources.
The project, “Modeling Particulate Matter Disperson in Metro Manila,” used an internationally recognized mathematical technique to predict the pathways of pollution from various sources.
Factors that impact air quality were used as inputs to the mathematical modeling: Air quality monitoring data, topography, actual traffic count, type of vehicles and fuels, and meteorology such as wind speeds and directions that vary in different months.
Due to variability of these factors, not all of Metro Manila experiences dirty air the same way, the study noted.
KKK, or “Friends of Progress and the Environment”, a non-government organization that advances sustainable development by providing science-based research to policy-makers, said that traffic congestion is now a critical health issue.
Their study specifically focused on particulate matter that can easily enter people’s lungs and cause coughing, sneezing and asthma in children. Such small particulates are also internationally recognized as causes of ischemic heart disease, cardiopulmonary diseases, respiratory dysfunctions, and lung cancer.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 3 million deaths per year are linked to outdoor pollution, with majority occurring in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific.
Locally, the Department of Health (DoH) has noted that the leading causes of death include cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, among them, lung cancer exacerbated—if not directly caused—by air pollution.
While the group lauded the national government’s drive to solve traffic congestion, it emphasized that a lot can still be done to address traffic and the critical risk it continues to pose to citizens.
It proposed a “holistic” approach to solving air pollution and traffic congestion:
Greater coordination among agencies handling traffic and environmental issues; establishment of a traffic management bureau to oversee the traffic situation.
Strengthening of the motor vehicle inspection system and traffic management efforts; installation of more closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras to monitor both social and environmental concerns.
Upgrading of traffic light system to deal with increased traffic volume; lesser dependence on manpower to direct traffic.
Enforcers should also undergo a uniform training program; no-contact apprehension is encouraged.
Stricter compliance to existing emission standards; motorists should also consider the quality of fuels they use, along with reliability and cost.
Enhancement of air monitoring capability of the Deparment of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Put up more monitoring stations in critical areas.
Finally, the group called on government to lead a shift from cars to mass transit over the long term. A highly functional mass transport system, combined with land use and population management, would greatly support a drive for cleaner air in Metro Manila, they said.