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Air pollution could be defined as any substance that may harm the environment, and the living beings. Air pollution can be classified as visible and invisible. We can divide air pollution into two types, primary air pollutants and secondary pollutants (Miller). The damage causes by air pollution varies from place to place, as determined by climate, social factors, and geography. For example, the air pollution problem in Beijing differs from the air pollution problem in Los Angeles because of regional factors specific to both places. In Saudi Arabia, the air pollution problem is unique in that it is caused by the massive automobile industry and efforts to address the problem must also consider the cultural and location differences in order to fix this problem.
According to the U.S National Park Service, which cares for special places such as, national parks, historic places, and open spaces, defined the different types of pollution in their website stating, primary pollutants are pollution sources; whereas, secondary pollutants are the chemical changes in the atmosphere, which is developed by primary pollutant sources (National Parks Service). The source shows that pollution leads and develops other issues. An example of indoor pollutants is cooking and, heating with biomass, outdoor, on the other hand, is the inefficient combustion of fuels for transport and power generation (WHO). Motor vehicles have caused many problems to humans and the environment. In my country, Saudi Arabia, there is only one primary means of travel, cars. The automobile is the most important means of transportation in Saudi Arabia because public transportation is discouraged. Many people prefer their privacy in individual vehicles, and due to the heat, public transportation is uncomfortable. For many years in Saudi Arabia, there has been a common belief that public transportation is only safe for men. Additionally, legally, women are not allowed to be in public without a guardian with them. As a result, the automobile is also a significant contributor to air pollution because automobiles are the primary source of transportation.
Large part of the Arabian Desert is located in Saudi Arabia, which features a hot climate. People tend to have bigger vehicles such as Land Cruisers and Jeeps to endure the harsh climates and weather changes. Bigger vehicles consume more gas and pollute three to five times more than cars (“EPA“). Additionally, in the Kingdom people have larger families that must all fit in one or two vehicles, because women do not drive. Furthermore, gas is extremely cheap, so vehicles that are typically considered “gas guzzlers” are acceptable in Saudi Arabia. In this case study, we will look at the problems, causes, and possible solutions regarding air pollution from motor vehicles in Saudi Arabia.
In many Saudi cities, motor vehicles are the cause of extreme smog. Smog affects the overall air quality. In Saudi Arabia the problems surrounding motor vehicles are only amplified due to the excessive use of them. In cities like Riyadh, smog is only amplified due to the harsh conditions. According to Julia Vergin’s article “10 Worst Cities for Smog”, she places Riyadh on this list stating, “Sandstorms, like here in Riyadh, can contribute to smog forming because they increase the amount of particles in the air. In a place like Saudi Arabia, the intense ultra-violet rays also transform transport and industry emissions into ozone” (Vergin). Thus, with these harsh conditions, the vehicle transportation use only amplified this problem. In Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, Abbey tells a story of a man who has invested money into the land to try and strike it rich in his future. While the story is very interesting, the important aspect of this story comes with the point Abbey is trying to make. With the excessive use of the land and the money that can be made by it, instead of breeding beneficial things from the land, it only brings destruction to those who overuse it. This is similar in that, in Saudi Arabia the overuse of vehicles due to the cheap price of gas will only cripple the environment. In American cities, which did not even make the list, the smog problem is not compounded because of the weather. Instead, American cities only deal with smog from motor vehicles alone.
Not driving is the solution; however, this solution is not practical and it would not be followed. In Saudi Arabia, many people work in different cities that are up to two hours away from where they live. According to the Christian Science Monitor, “Here, where gasoline is roughly three times cheaper than the Water most Saudis drink, huge Lincoln Continentals and Cadillac’s are selling well. Saudi Arabia represents one of the few remaining lucrative markets for American-built luxury cars” (CSM). It is easy to drive to work because the gas is extremely cheap, and the roads in-between cities are clear from traffic. Imagine, a clear majority of people doing this daily, and how the already horrible pollution would only become worse. While in other parts of the world the price of gasoline fluctuates greatly according to economic trends, in Saudi Arabia it stays low because Saudi Arabia is the primary producer of gasoline; whereas, in the United States gasoline is much higher because companies must first purchase gasoline and then re-sell.
Additionally, in Saudi Arabia there are only a few cities spread over the whole country that are tourist sites. This means that if one wants to travel to experience more fun things outside their city, they must do some serious driving. The logical way to reduce emissions is to depend on many other sources than cars. In other parts of the world, one would recognize the value in using mass transit, bicycles, and walking whenever possible. However, in Saudi Arabia there is a discouragement from carpooling or using public transportation. Families usually do not let their women to be alone on buses and so they rather take them by their own cars. Given the structure of families and the social customs, the car has become the preeminent means of transportation.
The weather conditions make it difficult to use any form of transportation other than a cooled vehicle. Given the hot, arid climate in the region, the problem of air pollution is made worse because the environment in this region is already fragile due to the weather conditions. When cars are fewer on the road the emission would be lower resulting cleaner air (Miller). In addition, if Saudi Arabia could prevent Saudi’s from using vehicles irresponsibly, things may have a chance of improving. In Saudi Arabia, many people surf in their cars on the sand dunes. This implies that many Saudi’s are driving for fun, and not for necessity. Unfortunately, there is little consequence for this trend. As you can imagine, the Kingdom has one of the highest rates of fatal car accidents in the world. There is a serious need for policy changes for things to improve in the Kingdom. Some useful changes would include making the roads safer for women to drive, giving incentives for carpooling, and having harsher penalties for irresponsible car use.
Air pollution is a big problem facing the environment and its living creatures, especially humans. The focus of this case study is on motor vehicles, especially which is resulting from car exhaust emissions. To reduce emissions and reduce air pollution it makes sense that people should use transportation, bicycles, and walk as much as possible. However, in a place like Saudi Arabia weather conditions make this possibility almost obsolete. Furthermore, policy changes on issues such as gasoline, vehicles, and improvements are desperately needed to save the environment from these harsh impacts that are facing Saudi Arabia. To address the air pollution problem in Saudi Arabia, specific steps are needed to help reduce the amount of smog caused by car pollution, and regulations should be put in place to make it more likely that people will reduce the amount of car use. The United States knows some of these consequences, however, in my country, these issues are much more sever and heart-breaking.
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