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