By Sajila Saseendran www.khaleejtimes.com
DUBAI — Dubai Municipality has declared February 17 as “car free day”.
More than 1,500 employees and officials of the civic body will switch to public transport next Wednesday to spread awareness about air pollution, Director General of Dubai Municipality Hussain Nasser Lootah announced at a press conference on Tuesday.
The transport sector contributed to 42 per cent of carbon dioxide emission in the emirate. Almost 90 per cent of this — which equals to over 20million kg of carbon dioxide per day — came from petrol and diesel used in cars, according to 2009 statistics released by the department, said Hamdan Khalifa Al Shaer, Director of Environment Department.
Lootah said the aim of the initiative —a first of its kind from the government sector in UAE — was to encourage everyone to minimise the use of cars and reduce the amount of carbon emission.
“Even if it is (for) one day, the concept will be followed up with the cooperation of individuals and companies,” said Lootah.
“We are sure other departments and public will follow. Environment is not only the responsibility of government bodies. Everyone in the society has a role and responsibility towards its protection,” he said.
The concept of “car free day” originated in the US following the oil crisis in 1970. In 1999, European cities marked the first World Car Free Day and more than 1,500 cities across the globe now participate in the movement that encourages communities to adopt alternative transport instead of private vehicles.
By introducing the concept here, Dubai municipality hopes to set an example and has invited other departments and companies to encourage people to use Dubai Metro, RTA buses and water taxis.
The civic chief said he would take the Metro to reach office on the “car free day”.
“Anyone coming late will be fined,” he said citing that using public transport should not be an excuse for being late to office.
Visitors to the Municipality are also urged to participate in the initiative which will see the parking lots in the Municipality’s main building in Deira closed for the entire day.
Lootah said the civic body also planned to encourage its office employees to use Metro on a regular basis. “We can pay for their tickets…we will be reducing carbon emission and at the same time, we will be saving parking space as well.”
Al Shaer said a report about the result of implementing the initiative would be prepared later.
In November, Municipality had announced the “green parking” project which will introduce green specifications for parking lots. Lootah said the details of the progress in the project would be revealed soon.