BEIRUT: A long stretch of stock-still cars crowding the streets is not just a pain for the driver, Lebanon’s notorious traffic jams are also having a detrimental effect on the environment, experts said Thursday.

“The average increase in the number of vehicles has surpassed 6 percent, which is also accompanied with an increase in gasoline consumption in land transportation,” Reem Najdawi, Head of ESCWA Productive Sectors Section, told a conference Thursday.

This vehicle increase has also led to an increase in carbon monoxide and dangerous hydrocarbons, which contribute to climate change, she said.

Despite the fact that air pollution resulting from heavy transportation emissions are common across the world, “what distinguishes Lebanon’s land transportation sector is that it directs pollution in to residential areas, most probably in cities with dense populations” she said.

Najdawi was speaking at the “Air Pollution from Land Transportation in Lebanon: Reality and Solutions” conference held Thursday at the U.N. House. The conference was jointly organized by ESCWA, IPT Energy Centre, the Lebanese Environment Ministry, and the U.N. Development Program, according to a statement published by the U.N. Thursday.

Sara Malek, the head of the Environmental Technology Department of the Environment Ministry, who was also representing the environment minister at the conference, agreed with Najdawi, saying that land transportation in Lebanon was “the main source behind air pollution.”

According to Malek, almost 60 percent of nitrogen monoxide hydrocarbons released in 2005 came from land transportation.

For his part, Energy Ministry representative Ibrahim Haddad said the ministry promoted the use of alternative energy such as solar-generated energy, energy conservation lamps as well as hydro-energy generated from the Beirut River.

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