Can pol­icy alone save us from pol­lu­tion?

TOXIC There is an ob­vi­ous need to en­hance the level of reach, fre­quency and ca­pac­ity of ex­ist­ing pub­lic trans­port sys­tems in Delhi

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - Estates - - FRONT PAGE - Nam­rata Kohli ht­es­tates@hin­dus­tan­times.com (Nam­rata Kohli tracks ev­ery­thing from House to Home, from real estate to interiors and cap­tur­ing key trends in prop­erty mar­kets in In­dia and glob­ally)

Did you know that the cap­i­tal city has more than one crore reg­is­tered ve­hi­cles, of which over 90 per­cent are pri­vate ve­hi­cles, ac­cord­ing to the Delhi Park­ing Pol­icy, June 2017.

In the last one year, over six lakh pri­vate ve­hi­cles were added in New Delhi and the city loses Rs 60,000 crore an­nu­ally due to in­creas­ing con­ges­tion and pol­lu­tion with res­i­dents fac­ing pol­lu­tion ex­po­sure lev­els any­where from four to twelve times the safe level, ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO).

Is it time to take a bold step like Sin­ga­pore which is stalling reg­is­tra­tion of new cars from 2018, faced with sim­i­lar prob­lems of air pol­lu­tion, space con­straint and traf­fic con­ges­tion.

Vi­sion­ary ar­chi­tect Ste­fano Bo­eri who has in­vented en­vi­ron­ment-friendly ar­chi­tec­tural con­cepts such as build­ing a For­est City at The Li­uzhou, China and ver­ti­cal for­est build­ings in Mi­lan, com­mends this move by say­ing–“Sin­ga­pore has rep­re­sented in the last decade a model for green and for ur­ban foresta­tion. I think that with the de­ci­sion to re­duce the amount of cars by 2018 Sin­ga­pore will be­come also a world­wide model for sus­tain­able mo­bil­ity.”

Sin­ga­pore’s fo­cus is com­pletely now on build­ing a ro­bust pub­lic trans­port sys­tem in­stead of re­ly­ing upon pri­vate ve­hi­cles.

The Sin­ga­pore au­thor­ity is plan­ning to do mas­sive in­vest­ment (to the tune of SG$28bn over next five years) for im­prov­ing pub­lic trans­port.

The is­land coun­try is al­ready densely pop­u­lated with a high per­cent­age of land oc­cu­pied by road and trans­port net­work. They have taken cog­nizance of this re­al­ity, by putting a cap on ve­hi­cle pop­u­la­tion growth, which is presently 2.5%. And now they have an­nounced to cut the growth to zero, from 2018. There are ad­di­tional de­ter­rents such as high-cost of ob­tain­ing per­mits for pri­vate cars, and time limit of ten years for hold­ing the ve­hi­cle.

In In­dian con­text, the pol­icy may not be im­ple­mentable as it is, says Har­ish Ku­mar Sharma from in­fra­struc­ture con­sul­tants, REPL- “You can­not sim­ply re­strict the reg­is­tra­tion of new per­sonal ve­hi­cles with­out pro­vid­ing the ef­fi­cient vi­able alternative to the pub­lic trans­port. For in­stance, siz­able pro­por­tion of pro­fes­sion­als em­ployed in the cen­tral ar­eas of Delhi has res­i­dence in far flung ar­eas such as Noida, Greater Noida and Gurgaon.

The pub­lic road trans­port and metro net­work have spread re­mark­ably over past few years. Still it has to reach all cor­ners. They are al­ready over­crowded, sig­ni­fy­ing the op­ti­mal uti­liza­tion of ca­pac­ity. There­fore there is ob­vi­ous need of en­hanc­ing the level of reach, fre­quency and ca­pac­ity. The gov­ern­ment and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties are well aware of the same and works are hap­pen­ing on im­prov­ing the pub­lic trans­port sys­tem.”

There is no doubt that we must get more peo­ple to move from pri­vate to pub­lic, says Hardeep Singh Puri, Union Min­is­ter of State for Hous­ing and Ur­ban Af­fairs, Gov­ern­ment of In­dia - “But where is the al­ter- na­tive mode of trans­porta­tion - the pub­lic trans­port? We need to also work on build­ing the rail cor­ri­dor be­tween Delhi and Ghaziabad and Delhi and Meerut. We need to pro­vide for peo­ple to move around rather than ve­hi­cles to move around. Un­for­tu­nately as they say, things have to get worse be­fore they get bet­ter.”

Shared mo­bil­ity by car com­pa­nies such as Ola and Uber is also emerg­ing as a vi­able alternative. With stud­ies sug­gest­ing that a pri­vate cab cars were re­main­ing unutilised for 96% of its time and av­er­age oc­cu­pancy rates around 1.14 peo­ple per car, re-imag­in­ing util­i­sa­tion of ex­ist­ing re­sources is help­ing build a real alternative to a world that moves like a jam and looks like a park­ing lot, says Uber spokesper­son. High­light­ing the mer­its of UberPOOL, Prab­h­jeet Singh, Gen­eral Man­ager, Uber In­dia says, “More than 30% of our to­tal trips in Delhi are “pool” trips. Over time, UberPOOL rid­ers in Delhi have con­trib­uted to save over 19 mil­lion kilo­me­tres driven, which equals to sav­ing of 936 kilo-litres of fuel and cut over 22 lakh kgs of CO2 emis­sions.

As more peo­ple in more cities use UberPOOL, it will help con­trib­ute to the fu­ture that Uber has al­ready be­gun to cre­ate - more peo­ple in fewer cars, fewer peo­ple own­ing cars and fewer cars on the road.”

For a coun­try that has al­ways con­sid­ered car own­er­ship as a “sta­tus sym­bol”, it is in­ter­est­ing to note that to­day con­sumers are much more open to shar­ing.

The adop­tion of this ser­vice stems from this very be­havioural change with many peo­ple re­think­ing buy­ing a car and sev­eral more giv­ing up on the idea of buy­ing a sec­ond one.

Talk­ing about their ex­pe­ri­ence in In­dia, Uber spokesper­son says that they are de­lighted that in Del­hi­ites have em­braced ‘shared mo­bil­ity’ in a big way. Their rid­ers aren’t just mil­len­ni­als - they are peo­ple from dif­fer­ent age groups in­clud­ing se­nior cit­i­zens who now de­pend on our ser­vice to get around the city with the ease and com­fort that wasn’t there be­fore.

Adop­tion of elec­tric cars is yet an­other im­por­tant step to­wards solv­ing the prob­lem of air pol­lu­tion, sug­gests Dr Sean Tomp­kins – Global CEO, RICS. He shares the ex­pe­ri­ence of UK which five years back, did not have ad­e­quate “charg­ing in­fra­struc­ture” but to­day there are far too many charg­ing points. He adds that the fu­ture be­longs to cars run­ning on elec­tric­ity rather than fos­sil fu­els.

PHOTO/HT

There is a need to get more peo­ple to move from pri­vate to pub­lic trans­port.

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