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Opinion ... ...
    Car-free Day drives home city's pollution concern
Zheng Lifei
2004-06-15 06:39

While Beijing is staging the nation's largest auto show, South China's Shenzhen has taken the lead in trying to stay away from vehicles.

It held its first Car-free Day on Friday.

The two events - one intended to drive up car sales and the other designed to heighten awareness about the environmental toll the increasing number of cars is taking on the city - epitomizes a typical economic development dilemma.

Since the world's first Car-free Day was held in France with the slogan "In Town Without My Car" in 1998, two Chinese cities have decided to take a stance - Chengdu in the southwestern province of Sichuan and now Shenzhen.

Shenzhen's decision to hold the event was a direct response to its declining air quality, which was once one of the best in the country.

Showing their support, more than 100,000 people, instead of driving their cars, walked, pedaled or rode buses to work that day.

The soaring number of cars is the main culprit behind the deteriorating air quality in Shenzhen, which is similar to all other big metropolises in China.

Obviously, a single car-free day is too symbolic to really improve the air pollution situation, as the rising number of cars leads to more exhaust emissions. The current backward exhaust emission standard, Euro II, is also adding to the problem.

But hopefully, such a day can be the first step in making us realize how we have to take care of where we live.

While it is impossible to discourage consumers from buying cars, as the car industry has already been designated as one of country's pillar industries, the government should take more concrete steps to address the worsening exhaust emission pollution situation as more people buy cars.

Tightened controls over exhaust emissions and the speedy adoption of strict, environmentally friendly emission standards, for example, would be more effective in helping curb air pollution.

(China Daily 06/15/2004 page6)