Dubai: Maia Baltika loves nothing more than zigging and zagging around Dubai behind the wheel of her Toyota Camry to a myriad of beach sports games, shopping adventures and off to work.
But today she will leave her car behind for World Car Free Day, a 24-hour campaign traditionally held on September 22 every year.
“It’s only one day a year and if we all stopped using our car for only 24 hours, think of the pollution we would save,” said the Russian national who works as a retail clerk.
As an alternative, Baltika will be taking the Dubai Metro to work, a surefire way of cutting carbon emissions from her car.
According to Dubai’s Statistical Yearbook 2010, as many as 69 million travellers took the metro that year in direct contrast to figures that show more than 1.031 million vehicles were registered in Dubai, producing an estimated 23.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each day.
“One small step can make a difference,” Baltika said, “especially if a lot of us take action the same way.”
Commercial Bank of Dubai (CBD) was putting its best foot forward in recent days by encouraging its banking customers on its website to leave their car behind and participate in World Car Free Day.
“Express your desire to save the earth by not taking your car on that day,” read the CBD website. “Let’s burn calories, not petrol and save the earth and our health.”
According to the World Carfree Network, World Car Free Day has now “grown to involve official and unofficial participants in over 1,000 cities and 40 countries” including the UAE.
In recent years, Dubai and Abu Dhabi government employees have left their cars at home and taken alternative transport to work as a gesture of working toward a greener tomorrow.
Tanja Eskola of the World Carfree Network said in a statement on the organisation’s website that she considers all cars “clunkers, flopped vehicles failing to meet any criteria of sensible means of transport.”
On the ecological front, Eskola said that a “car emits three times its own weight in pollutants every year, whereas a bicycle does not pollute.”
“Exhaust fumes cause acid air, pollution, cancer, lead poisoning and a variety of bronchial and respiratory illnesses,” the network stated. “The average car emits a cocktail of more than 1,000 pollutants.”
The ironic environmental impact of the average family car, the Carfree Network said, is that the ecological damage is already done before the new car is driven off the lot.
“A car causes more pollution before it’s ever driven than in its entire lifetime of driving,” said the organization.
• Transport is blamed for causing anywhere from 20-25 per cent of total greenhouse emissions released into the atmosphere
• Raw materials associated with vehicles such as plastics, scrap tires, used engine oil, cooling liquids and battery acid are extremely hazardous to the environment if disposal is not closely monitored.