Sustainable transport key to sustainable development

South Africa’s transport sector contributes 17% to the country’s gross domestic product and creates almost 30% of formal employment, which is an indication of the direct value that transport plays in the sustainable development of the country.

According to the United Nations, without sustainable transport, there will be no lasting progress on mitigating global warming; without sustainable transport, there will be no lasting progress on the sustainable development goals.

“Transport drives economic development,” says Joe Letswalo, principal officer at the Transport Sector Retirement Fund (TSRF). “Whether it is imports, exports or local distribution, transport is key.”

“The transport sector is an enabler – it enables trade, commerce, tourism, economic growth, and gives people access to jobs, services, education, medicine, entertainment, sport, and social interaction that helps to create a dynamic country and citizens who live productive, positive lives.

“Without transport the South African economy would stop. Transport is the cornerstone of the country’s economy.”

October is Transport Month

Letswalo says it is essential to foster an awareness of the importance of the sector and the critical part the people working in the transport sector play in the life of South Africa and the world.

“We need to celebrate the role of the people working in the transport sector, because they improve the quality of our lives. The role transport plays in our day-to-day living and in providing food services and goods to consumers needs to be acknowledged.

“The public, when passing a truck driver or transport worker, should take a moment to appreciate the convenience and quality that member of the transport industry is adding to their lives.

“We only drive a few kilometres to refuel our vehicles, but often don’t appreciate the thousands of kilometres truck drivers have driven to deliver our fuel to the service station or our food at the supermarket.”

Letswalo reports that the first-ever Global Sustainable Transport Conference, held in November 2016, emphasised that sustainable transport is a crucial element of the UN’s global sustainable development agenda.

“There is a growing realisation in South Africa and internationally that sustainable transport drives sustainable development, advancing the people-centred goals at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“The Global Sustainable Transport Conference emphasised that sustainable transport solutions are key to securing economic prosperity, enabling access to services and protecting the environment.

“Furthermore, that sustainable transport is crucial to the development of countries in special situations – least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing states – which face difficulties linked to transit, inadequate transport infrastructure, missing links, huge infrastructure gaps, limited capacities, traffic-related air pollution and road fatalities.

“However, the TSRF agrees with the findings of the conference that even those countries with transport challenges have an enormous potential for sustainable development.

“The Global Sustainable Transport Conference stressed that regional co-operation, international support, and focused investments can connect populations and economies both domestically and globally, which would benefit the whole world while leaving no one behind.

“This is one of the driving reasons that the TSRF plans to extend its truck stop development strategy beyond South Africa’s borders to our neighbouring states.

“We believe the development of truck stops that provide adequate rest, food, medical, safety and security, mechanical and fuel facilities will impact positively on the sustainability and wellbeing of both our members, many of whom are truck drivers, and the transport sectors of South Africa and our neighbouring countries.”

He reports that according to the UN:

  • One billion people worldwide still lack adequate access to road networks, which hinders their access to basic services and markets, promotes marginalisation and can result in the deepening of social inequities.
  • In many cities, public transport remains unsustainable, unsafe, inefficient, inaccessible and unaffordable, a situation that particularly affects the poor.
  • The transport sector, as one of the top consumers of fossil fuels, is a major contributor to air pollution and generates a variety of emissions that are driving climate change. The transport sector is responsible for about a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions.
  • More than 1.24-million people are killed annually in road traffic accidents, 90% of these in developing countries.
  • Letswalo says sustainable transport is out of reach for too many people who live in rural areas in South Africa, and for people with disabilities.

    He says even when transport is available safety is often a problem.

    “We have to mobilise all transport stakeholders, especially government, to put people at the centre of transport planning and to all work together. The Global Sustainable Transport Conference emphasised that transport is team work,” says Letswalo.

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    Alf James
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