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China moves to combat smog and traffic chaos

China’s teeming cities, home to millions, are blanketed in smog. The country is now trying to fight air pollution and traffic chaos by expanding public transportation.

China’s rapidly growing cities are grappling with massive pollution. At the start of the year, Beijing made headlines around the world with images of the Chinese capital blanketed in a cloudy haze.

Yet the city is just one of many urban centers in China where air quality has drastically plummeted. As the country’s middle class continues to grow, so too, has the demand for cars. China has the highest number of new car registrations in the world. In 2011, 14.5 million new cars were registered – a stark contrast from some 600,000 vehicles in 2000.
A woman covers her mouth while driving through the smog on bike China’s cities have the highest level of air pollution in the world

With so many new cars, air pollution has deteriorated rapidly and roads are badly congested. Local governments and city planners are looking for ways to relieve the traffic and pollution by providing eco-friendly, sustainable transportMore .

Too often, say analysts, developing countries end up copying the car-based transportation concept they see in industrialized countries. „Instead of reducing individual transit and expanding public transportation, officials focus too much on building up infrastructure and easing the flow of traffic,“ says Jüren Perschon, an expert at the European Institute for Sustainable Transport (EURIST), in a strategy paper.

Guangzhou BRT – fast, green and clean

But there are signs of progress – take Guangzhou, for example. Located on the Pearl River in southern China, the city is an important manufacturing hub for everything from textiles to high-tech electronics and auto parts. Booming industries have attracted millions of people to Guangzhou, and the city – which is already home to some nine million people – is growing rapidly.

To keep traffic from spiraling out of control, officials introduced the Guangzhou BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) in February of 2010. The buses now transport nearly a million passengers a day, far more than “>most of China’s subway systems.
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