Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"No-Car Day"

Start:     Sep 22, '07 06:00a
End:     Sep 22, '07 7:00p
Location:     Sudirman, Thamrin, Jakarta
The air could be fresher downtown next week, with next Saturday seeing a ban on all cars, taxis and motorcycles on the main streets of Jl. Jend. Sudirman and Jl. MH Thamrin.

The Sept. 22 "No-Car Day" will come into force from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. as part of clean air initiatives and to coincide with International Car Free Day.

"Only public transport, bicycles and pedestrians will be allowed onto the streets at that time," Ridwan Panjaitan, the head of the pollution control unit at the City Environment Management Board told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

"We will dedicate the day to encouraging people to use public transport."

The police and public order officers will guard all 26 intersections along and heading to both streets.

On the same day, the administration also plans to test the emission levels of 1,000 private cars passing near the National Monument (Monas) in Central Jakarta.

Governor Sutiyoso, who will end his term in October, will oversee the emission tests, which are in line with his recent air pollution control bylaw.

"If we achieve the target of 1,000 private cars, Pak Sutiyoso will receive an award from the Indonesian Records Museum (MURI)," Ridwan said.

Last year, Sutiyoso won the Asian Air Quality Champion award for his role in cleaning up the city's air as well as other awards from local nonprofit groups for his administration's ban on smoking in public places.

A 2005 bylaw stipulates that, apart from next Saturday's effort, each of Jakarta's five municipalities must organize one No-Car Day per month.

The administration says it plans to fully enforce the bylaw after the conclusion of Idul Fitri celebrations next month.

Sanctions of up to six months in jail or a Rp 50 million in fines are available for those found to have violated the bylaw.

Ridwan said a number of environmental groups, such as the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) and Partnership for Clean Emissions, will organize amusement events such as a drawing contest for children and a Ramadhan bazaar on Saturday.

The concept of Car Free Day was first introduced in France in 1998 but has quickly gained worldwide appeal.

In the Colombian capital Bogota, from which Jakarta took the inspiration for its busway, every Sunday is a no-car day.

Green activists organized car-free days in Jakarta in 2002, but the events were only held on main thoroughfares from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays, when much of the city's population was at home anyway.

Pollution levels were reported to have dropped by 20-30 percent during the 2002 events.

The administration says up to 70 percent of air pollution in the capital is caused by vehicle emissions. There are at least 2.5 million private cars and over 3 million motorcycles in the city, compared with only 255,000 public transportation vehicles.