The country can prevent up to 5,500 premature deaths with improvements in air quality, while increased physical activity such as cycling and brisk walking over the next 35 years can prevent additional 33,000 premature deaths, a new report by the Urban Health Initiative (UHI) of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.
The report, titled: “Health and economic impacts of transport interventions in Accra”, said those achievements could be attained through greater access to greener vehicles for citizens, and increased walking and cycling infrastructure.
The report was to influence the government to develop a more comprehensive and decarbonised public transportation system in Accra using health impact assessment tools to assess the environmental, health and economic benefits of a sustainable urban transportation system.
Private sector driven
An environmentalist and Executive Director of Green Advocacy Ghana, Mr Amoyaw Osei, told the Daily Graphic that it was important for the government to adopt a more sustainable public transportation system that focused on environmental sustainability.
He noted that air pollution levels were higher in urban settings that prioritised road transport over pedestrians and cyclists.
“If we go green and encourage the use of bicycles, for instance, we may even start the manufacturing of bicycles in the country, and that will be an economic benefit aside from all the health benefits. So that is an area we can explore,” he said.
With commercial transport services — the main forms of public transportation in Accra — managed by unions and co-operatives in the private sector, there is little consideration for the impact of carbon emissions on the environment and public health.
Mr Osei said it was important for the government to examine the impact of carbon emissions on the environment to determine the type of transportation mode to adopt and develop in the future.
He noted that air pollution levels were typically low in well-planned cities with good transport systems, walkable streets and ample green spaces to filter the air.
“This will require the redesign of some of the roads in the city to accommodate other modes of transportation like bicycles, and ensure that there is room for pedestrians’ walkways,” he said.
Accra is one of the fastest growing cities in Africa, with an annual population increase of around two per cent.
Experts project that more than 4.5 million people live in the city, with a daily influx of 2.5 million business commuters.
The population is expected to grow to 9.6 million by 2050 with a three-fold increase in demand for transport.
This means personal car ownership is projected to double, and there will be greater use of the public transport system.
A WHO Technical Officer and an expert in urban health and sustainable mobility, Dr Thiago Herick de Sa, noted that there was a need for the government to settle on the type of ideal city model needed, and to integrate tools which took into consideration the full range of health benefits that could be achieved when planning the city’s mobility.
He said healthy sustainable mobility systems were the ones that prioritised walking, cycling and public transport.
“Emissions from transport represent a major problem for cities around the world, particularly in developing countries that are witnessing rapid urbanisation, because upsurges in vehicles were among the fastest growing contributors to climate emissions and energy use,” he said.
Source: Daily Graphic
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