5 Dec 2017

Les Motos du Faso

Marty writes*

“Les Motos du Faso” or the motorcycles of Burkina Faso are as much of a staple as bicycles are in the Netherlands. Throughout my life I have spent many holidays in Ouagadougou and every year I go back it seems like two-wheel traffic increases exponentially. Locally, all two wheelers with engines are simply referred to as “motos” and are a way of life. I have learned that you cannot go anywhere in Ouaga without running into swarms of “motos” criss-crossing through traffic and revving their engines at every stop light. This video shows the typical intersection in Ouaga, 30 seconds into the video you see what is habitual at every traffic light in the city. This post will discuss what factors have to be taken into account when evaluating the environmental cost of the widespread use of “motos” in Ouagadougou.

According to an article published on TRT (Turkey Radio and Television) there is approximately one “moto” for every two people in the capital city, that is 760,000 “motos." When analysing the cost of widespread “moto” this number would serve as our starting point in identifying their indirect cost to the environment, and those living in it. The average distance travelled per day along with an average for CO2 emissions per kilometer would have to be calculated to figure out total CO2 emissions. However, then a cost has to be assigned to CO2 emissions. A major question arises at this point, is the cost of CO2 emissions the same everywhere or are certain areas affected more? To elaborate on this, can we calculate the cost of CO2 emissions for only Ouagadougou or would a greater area have to be involved, and if so how would this be included in a cost-benefit analysis?

Additionally there are various externalities which occur as a result of high motorcycle use. The cost of these externalities are perhaps harder to measure than the direct environmental impact of motorcycles. A main example of this is waste produced by motorcycle mechanics who are dotted on the sides of roads throughout the city. These usually resemble a small shack surrounded by a few motorcycles and one or more mechanics. As most of these garages are informal there is no legitimate waste management system, as such many of them dispose of “motor” oil on dirt roads (sometimes to combat dust), or in open sewage. A practice that potentially has serious repercussions for the groundwater supply.

Bottom Line: The widespread use of “motos” in Ouagadougou has serious environmental consequences, some of which are easily measured. However, many of externalities of their use have hidden costs nearly impossible to measure.
* Please help my environmental economics students by commenting on unclear analysis, other perspectives, data sources, etc. (Or you can just say something nice :)


Isa said...

Hey Marty, nice topic!

I might have some suggestions for you on what to include in your cost-benefit analysis.
First of all, I think it would be most practical to include the global cost of carbon, since it is a global problem following from local carbon flows. Imagine Ouagadougou facing no local problems from climate change, but other areas in the world do, is it reasonable then to only look at the regional effects whereas the external costs of motos are also distributed to other regions? Moreover, I think you would have a really hard time finding out the regional cost of carbon, whereas for this cost-benefit analysis the point is to look at the distribution of costs and benefits as well.
You could say that the benefits of motos are ... and ... because of increased time efficiency, mobility, etc, and those benefits are enjoyed by the people who ride these vehicles. Then you could continue by specifying the local costs in terms of air pollution (DAILYS, value of a statistical life) water pollution (costs of purifying water), etc. which are borne by the local population, and then specifying the global costs, i.e. the social cost of carbon, which are borne beyond this specific region as well.

Finally, if you have a really hard time finding certain data, because it is not monitored or simply insignificant (being super low), then you could just state these limitations in your discussion or method (or any section where this would fit)

Hope this helps!


Inwook Jung said...

Hey Marty. I was curious to know if you have managed to find out how to calculate some of the costs you mentioned in your blog post. They are very difficult to quantify indeed (especially in monetary values). But, if you did manage to do so, I am interested to know the measures you took! Thanks!

Gabriela said...

Hi Marty! With reference to the questions you asked with about the cost of CO2 emission, every country tends to have a social cost of carbon, and the one that the US has is pretty good. Also, the costs can be as translated into general global CO2 emissions, or can be more local. For instance CO2 emissions spread specially around a certain radius. Maybe you can then affirm that les motos du faso affect generally Faso and some nearby cities.
Good blog post!

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