Air Clean Up

How Can City Waterways Reduce Air Pollution?

Sep 26 2017 Read 1079 Times

From London to Sydney, a large number of major cities are built around waterways. Historically, it’s because these waterways were used for commerce when boats were the best form of transportation of goods. But in the modern day, do they have any benefits? They’re certainly good for tourism, with the likes of the Thames and the Danube proving popular with tourists. However, they may also be useful for reducing air pollution. This post explores how city waterways might be able to reduce levels of pollution in built up urban areas.

Worsening city air

The state of the world’s air is becoming worse and worse – despite new regulations attempting to reduce emissions. That’s especially the case in cities, which have become hotspots for dirty air. Why? It’s largely down to traffic, churning out carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. Exposure to these gases increases the risk of lung diseases, as well as having potential effects on the heart.

It’s clear there’s a problem. But how do waterways help? It’s simple – if utilised correctly, they could reduce traffic levels by providing an alternative form of transport across cities. Commuters, locals and tourists would have their reliance on the roads reduced, with lower levels of air pollution as a result.

Trouble at sea?

Of course, one of the potential problems with utilising waterways for transport is the boats themselves. Boats are hardly known for their environmental friendliness. Studies have shown increased levels of water pollution in heavily trafficked waterways, with boats emitting their fair share of pollutant gases too. That’s a challenge that some companies are looking to overcome.

In France, SeaBubbles have been testing lithium battery-powered electric water taxis on the Seine. They’re planning to construct several docking stations at piers along the river. Similarly, Southampton-based REAPsystems have developed water taxi hybrids and one Hamburg operator has created a prototype hybrid ferry for use on the Elbe river.

Diesel still prominent

Elsewhere, there are cities which already use their waterways for transport without this kind of innovation. Hong Kong’s Star Ferry boats take over 70,000 passengers between Hong Kong and Kowloon, while Istanbul’s water taxis and ferries transport over four times that amount across the Bosphorus each day. They do so, however, using diesel fuel.

This is an area which is also seeing some development. Tokyo Water Taxis cruise in and around Tokyo Bay, providing passengers with an alternative to the Japanese capital’s congested roads. With the city hosting the 2020 Olympic games, they’re looking to have around 60 diesel-powered boats in their fleet of Tokyo transportation vessels in time for the event. The problem here is that, while these boats do ease congestion on the roads, they may just be spreading the pollution out, rather than reducing it on the whole.

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