Eco-conscious driving encouraged at Ajman traffic lights

'Turn off the Engine' scheme aims to foster a culture of sustainability

The 'Turn off the Engine' scheme launched in Ajman aims to contribute towards the UAE's climate targets. Credit: Wam
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Drivers in Ajman have been urged to switch off their vehicle engines while waiting at timer-operated traffic lights.

The “Turn off the Engine” scheme, launched over the weekend by the emirate’s Municipality and Planning Department, aims to foster a culture of sustainability.

The initiative is voluntary and only implemented during moderate weather, and is intended to contribute towards the UAE's ambitious climate targets.

“This initiative aligns with the UAE's overarching vision and strategic direction towards achieving sustainability,” said Dr Mohammed Ahmed Al Muhairi, Executive Director of the Infrastructure Development Sector at the department.

It contributes significantly to maintaining air quality and reducing sound pollution
Dr Mohammed Ahmed Al Muhairi

He said the scheme illustrates how significant individual contributions are in the battle against climate change and hopes it will bring numerous benefits.

“It's particularly feasible with modern, eco-friendly vehicles whose engines can be easily stopped and restarted within seconds,” said Dr Al Muhairi.

“By reducing exhaust gas emissions and noise pollution, it contributes significantly to maintaining air quality and reducing sound pollution.

“It also presents a practical approach to decreasing fuel consumption, offering both ecological and economic advantages.”

It follows research indicating that vehicles idling significantly contribute to air pollution and have various environmental and health implications.

A study highlighted by in 2023 explored the air pollution impacts of vehicles idling at drive-through Covid-19 testing sites in Salt Lake City, Utah.

It found that on days when air was stagnant, pollution from idling vehicles at these sites was comparable to or even higher than pollution from moving vehicles measured at nearby air quality monitoring stations.

This research underscores the importance of considering air quality impacts in planning and conducting events or operations that may involve extensive vehicle idling.

Environmental Protection Online also elaborates on why idling engines are harmful, explaining that they release more exhaust fumes than moving vehicles.

These fumes contain carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming, and other pollutants linked to cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, such as asthma and lung cancer.

Ajman is not alone, as the UK has been actively working to reduce air pollution, including from vehicle emissions, by introducing Clean Air Zones and promoting vehicles with stop-start technology.

Ajman resident and university student Younis Ibraheem, 20, says the new scheme is a step in the right direction.

“It’s simple yet impactful and shows how small actions can lead to significant positive changes,” he told The National.

“I’m proud to see Ajman taking such proactive steps towards sustainability.”

Photographer and fellow resident Khaled Abdulhameed agreed that minor changes can add up to make a difference.

“This is a small effort on our part, but I think it can greatly contribute to reducing air pollution and saving fuel,” he said.

“It’s also an eye-opener about the environmental footprint of our daily actions.”

Another expert said turning off engines had a clear benefit to the environment.

"When the engines of thermal cars are on, they emit into the atmosphere greenhouse gases as well as other pollutants that are harmful for human health and the environment," said Diana Francis of Khalifa University.

"Turning off these engines will reduce the emissions resulting from the burning process that occurs within the engines of cars, buses and trucks."

Greenhouse gases emitted by engines trap solar heat and prevent it from escaping to outer space, which prevents the Earth from cooling down, even at night.

"It is like covering the Earth with a warm blanket all time," Ms Francis explained.

Updated: March 28, 2024, 12:12 PM