Climate Change and Urban Transportation
Sasindie Subasinghe
16 September 2019

Evidence suggests that transport is responsible for one entire quarter of the CO 2 emissions of the world and clearly these emissions are mostly associated with urban settlements where transport is used in a massive scale. Though a tiny island, Sri Lanka too has its share of urban settlements equipped with transport varying from cars and buses to the ever abundant Tuk Tuks. According to the environmental authority of Sri Lanka, vehicle emissions account for 60 % of total emissions in the city of Colombo. Though this data might lead one to believe that Sri Lankans are ignorant to climate change, only the public knows the truth; The truth that the people of these cities do believe that climate change is real; the truth that they are more than ready to fight it; and the unfortunate truth that these people are lacking the necessary environment to take even the simple steps towards their goal of carbon neutral transportation.

Walking, one of the simplest approaches towards reduced greenhouse gas emissions is well received by the Sri Lankan community. Yet, according to the public there are a number of complications that are making them choose to ride a vehicle over this. Though most roads are built with a sidewalk for pedestrians most of these pavements are said to be damaged. There are instances where the pavements virtually disappear, making the pedestrians walk along the edge of the road in order to ensure that they don’t get hit by oncoming traffic or fall into the gutter while avoiding the vehicles. Furthermore, there are even instances where vehicles, most specifically motor bicycles, ride on the pavements during heavy traffic. The lives of both pedestrians and drivers are put at risk by such actions.

Though electronic vehicles can be an effective way to reduce emissions, the lack of charge stations outside the cities discourages people from using them


Vehicles powered by electricity are the ultimate outcome of an effort to create eco-friendly vehicles. Though electric trains are an investment needed to be made by a country, electric cars are a choice even civilians can explore. Yet, the citizens of Sri Lanka have to be willing to sacrifice their long-distance journeys if they are investing in an electric car. This is due to the lack of charging stations in most parts of the country, the main reason why people opt for cars run by fuel over electric cars.

Promoting public transport over private vehicles is another strategy countries all over the world are executing in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Even though a large number of people use public transport, what it may have done in reducing the terrible traffic in urban areas is negligibly small. It is believed that more people can be led into the usage of public transport, but Sri Lanka needs to make some major improvements in public transport before that is possible. For starters, the number of public vehicles should be increased by a drastic amount. The female population of the country are requesting separate public vehicles for themselves due to the sexual harassment experienced by them when traveling in overcrowded public vehicles. Even if the country is willing to take such a huge measure it will raise a few problems in promoting gender equality. Another reason which makes the decision of choosing public vehicles harder for the civilians is that public transport is generally behind schedule. It would be efficient to introduce an app for the civilians which allows them to track the movement of buses and trains so as to know when the required vehicle will arrive.

Improving public transportation is another effective way to reduce emission

Cycling, another growing concept that moves towards eco-friendly transport is practiced by little to no people in the cities of the country. A major reason for the rise in cycling in other countries is the availability of segregated bike lanes which ensure the safety of the rider and increase the convenience. Since building segregated bike lanes is a massive step for the country, it would be more logical to begin by separating bike lanes along roads that can also be used by other vehicles as needed while giving priority to the cyclists.

Another factor that contributed immensely in aggravating the already harsh traffic congestion in urban areas is unsystematic town planning. Systematic town planning can reduce the excessive need of transportation within cities and only the rigorous enforcement of policies related to urban constructions can create that. It is necessary to rule out residential areas and commercial areas within cities. Relocating small shops that are scattered along roads in plazas can also play a part in reducing traffic congestion. A complication that increases traffic congestion in urban settlements away from Colombo are the markets, customarily known as “sathi pola”. These activities often conducted on the pavements compel pedestrians to step down onto the roads alongside the moving vehicles.

So, this is the truth brought to light by the public. People of Sri Lanka do believe in climate change and hope to fight against it. It’s just that they don’t have the ambiance to walk towards their dream of carbon neutral transportation. It’s in the hands of policymakers to create that environment for them and breathe life into their dreams

Sasindie Subasinghe
16 September 2019
A student and Girl Guide at Musaeus College Colombo Sasindie strives to give people a voice to fight for a greener future.


  • Login or Register
  • Forgot Password
  • New Password
  • Register
Enter your information below
Enter your information below
Lost your password? Please enter your username or email address. You will receive a link to create a new password via email.