Transportations and Environment: Is Transportation Sector Closely Linked to Environmental Problems?


Recent trend becoming popular is using transportations in daily activities. One of many reasons why it can be happened is they want to move from one place to another place immediately by spending not much time. Sophisticated transportations nowadays can be found in daily life. People can choose what they want to ride. It will be interesting for people who are interested in an instantaneous process, but it is able to be a serious attention for our world. On the one hand, people are asked to do something fast. On the contrary, environmental problems must be awareness because transportations is growing fast and it can make much ecological problems. Thus, the transportation sector is becoming progressively linked to environmental problems.

According to Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue and Dr. Claude Comtois, the impacts of transportation have increased with motorization. It means that transport sector becomes a dominant factor behind the emission of most pollutants and hazardous impacts on the environment. These impacts, like all environmental impacts, can be divided into three categories. For the first, direct impacts means the immediate consequence of transport activities on the environment where the cause and effect relationship is generally clear and well understood. The second is indirect impacts, the secondary (or tertiary) effects of transport activities on environmental systems. They are often of higher consequence than direct impacts, but the involved relationships are often misunderstood and difficult to establish. The last is cumulative impacts. It means the additive, multiplicative or synergetic consequences of transport activities. They take into account of the varied effects of direct and indirect impacts on an ecosystem, which are often unpredicted. The transportations activities support increasing mobility demands for people in urban areas. Nevertheless, transport activities have resulted in growing levels of motorization and congestion. The most important impacts of transport on the environment actually relate to climate change, air quality and impact on health. As most people know that climate change has been discussed by most people in the world, because of its importance. The change of climate according to Dr. Rodrigue and Dr. Comtois in The Environmental Impacts of Transportation is the activities of the transport industry emit several million tons of gases each year into the atmosphere, such as lead (Pb), carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrogen oxides (NOx), nitrous oxide (N2O), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), silicon tetraflouride (SF6), benzene and volatile components (BTX), heavy metals (zinc, chrome, copper and cadmium) and particulate matters (ash, dust). Some of these gases, particularly nitrous oxide, also participate in depleting the stratospheric ozone (O3) layer which naturally screens the earth’s surface from ultraviolet radiation. In addition, air quality which is still related to air pollution and also human health. Nowadays, the environmental problem becoming most dominant is air pollution. Air pollution is a major health danger. Highway vehicles, marine engines, locomotives and aircraft are the sources of pollution in the form of gas and particulate matters emissions that affects air quality causing damage to human health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) considers that vehicles emissions give major contributions for air pollution, particularly the transportations in city streets. The toxic materials listed by WHO are carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, lead, formaldehyde, benzene, pyrene and soot.

Toxic air pollutants are associated with cancer, cardiovascular, respiratory and neurological diseases. Carbon monoxide (CO) when inhale affects bloodstream, reduces the availability of oxygen and can be extremely harmful to public health. An emission of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from transportation sources reduces lung function, affects the respiratory immune system and increases the risk of respiratory problems. The emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the atmosphere form various acidic compounds that when mixed in cloud water creates acid rain. Acid precipitation has detrimental effects on the built environment, reduces agricultural crop yields and causes forest decline. The reduction of natural visibility by smog has a number of adverse impacts on the quality of life and the attractiveness of tourist sites. Particulate emissions in the form of dust emanating from vehicle exhaust as well as from non-exhaust sources such as vehicle and road abrasion have an impact on air quality.

The physical and chemical properties of particulates are associated with health risks such as respiratory problems, skin irritations, eyes inflammations, blood clotting and various types of allergies. Actually, the relationship between transportation and the environment is related to many aspects, like what has been explained above. Some aspects are unknown and the others can lead to extreme changes in the environment. When somebody wants to asks a question about who must be responsible for what has happened, then. The true answer is us as the humans being in the world.

written by ana Setyo Wati

-Surakarta, Juni 2011-

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