Monday, 4 May 2009 9:28 AM

Sustainable Transport Key to Economic Development and Poverty Reduction, Says ADB Vice-President

BALI, INDONESIA - Asia and the Pacific's economies and their ability to lift people out of poverty may suffer unless urgent measures are taken to ensure better movement of people and goods, a seminar audience heard today.

The seminar, "Moving More With Less: Promoting Environmentally Sustainable and Inclusive Urban Transport," was held at ADB's 42nd Annual Meeting in Bali, Indonesia.

"Rapid urbanization and increasing personal vehicle use is adversely affecting the economic vitality of many cities in the Asia and Pacific," said Ursula Schaefer-Preuss, ADB Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, in her opening remarks to the seminar. "Unless urgent action is taken to ensure effective movement of people and goods, continued economic growth will suffer and along with it the ability of the growing number of urban poor to lift themselves out of poverty."

Asia's urban population currently numbers 1.2 billion, with one in three people living in cities. By 2020, the region's urban population is expected to double, and one of out every two people will live in an urban area.

Motorization is increasing equally rapidly. Vehicle fleets in many cities are doubling every five to seven years, and these numbers are expected to grow. As a result, Asian cities are now plagued by a range of traffic-related woes including major congestion, local pollution, traffic accidents, noise and greenhouse gas emissions.

Ms. Schaefer-Preuss noted that increased use of private motor vehicles, especially motorcycles, has reduced the demand for and overall efficiency of public transport in many cities. The urban poor bear the brunt of these public transport shortfalls, often having to travel by foot and face exposure to health risks posed by local pollution and road accidents.

Ms. Schaefer-Preuss argued that a paradigm shift is needed in transport operations from accommodating the ever increasing number of private vehicles through additional road infrastructure to placing more emphasis on urban transport, low-cost public transport, and in addressing safety and environment issues.

"Developing an efficient land-use and transport system to reduce the need for excessive travel, shifting to less polluting modes and improving existing modes are the three major starting points for developing sustainable urban transport," she said. "Business-as-usual is not a viable option."