By Lakdasa Wijetilleke, Suhashini A. R. Karunaratne, Suhashini Karunaratne (A. R.)

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By far the largest contributors to pollution in metropolitan areas are road vehicles. Transport emissions are intensified by congested roads, poor vehicle maintenance, old vehicles, inferior fuels, and the increasing number of vehicles in use. For example, the number of vehicles in Bangkok is increasing at an astronomical rate. Thailand adds about 300 to 400 new vehicles a day (Sayeg 1992: 23). The number of diesel-powered vehicles worldwide is also rising quickly. The major concern with regard to diesel vehicles is emission of particulates.

Generally, by the time air pollution is recognized as a major health hazard, the factors that exacerbate it may have become irreversible or extremely costly to remedy. Developing countries generally have been much slower than the industrial countries in recognizing the risks and in taking technical steps to reduce air pollution from automobiles and industrial facilities. Clearly, however, the problem has immediate, local effects as well as global implications. One reason for this pattern of neglect is a lack of understanding of the benefits of enhancing air quality.

If global warming continues unchecked, melting of the polar ice caps could raise the ocean level 5 to 6 meters by the end of the 21st century, flooding low-lying coastal areas all over the world (Environmental Update 1990). Deforestation and the combustion of coal, oil, and natural gas inject billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year and are responsible for the increase in atmospheric CO2. The burning of fossil fuels alone generates 20 billion tons of CO2, annually. A gasoline-fueled motor vehicle, housing a single 16 gallon tank of fuel, generates between 300 and 400 pounds of CO2 (DeLuchi and others 1988).

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