Tackling rising vehiclular pollution in indian cities
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Vehicular pollution from combustion of hydrocarbon fuels has assumed a monstrous proportion in Indian cities, particularly Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai etc. During winter the impact is severe. The state is doing its bit by expanding the Metro network, which hopefully will ease traffic congestion in many cities in next 3 to 4 years. But more needs to be done immediately and is cry of the hour. A strong public awareness is required to be built among vast majority of the population to garner support for the much needed transformation.
Some disturbing facts about pollution are:
a) Vehicular pollution contributes about 50% to 70% of total pollution in urban areas. About 52% in Kolkata and Mumbai. Against World Health Organization safe limit of 25, we are continuously exposed to about 10 to 15 times the limit in Kolkata or other metros. i.e, everybody rich or poor are like smoking equivalent of 25 to 40 cigarettes a day!
b) Particulate matter, smaller than PM2. 5 from Hydrocarbon exhausts such as diesel, invisible CNG exhaust, petrol etc. are all very dangerous. They are root cause of rising cases of lung problem, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, strokes, thyroid etc. especially children and elderly people are most vulnerable.
c) Clean air we breathe is more important than even water we drink or food we eat, because we live by continuously breathing in and out atmospheric air. In fact, air we breathe has 70% impact on our health. Lungs of Indians are 30% weaker than those of the Europeans due to breathing of polluted air.
d) I have been tracking world wide pollution in various cities of the world through good apps Plume air and Air Visual which provides fairly accurate live world wide data. I find that Kolkata and other Indian cities are among the worst in terms of air pollution. In fact it is said that 13 out of 20 most polluted cities are in India.
e) Bengal and other Indian states and cities are trying too woo investors in a big way. Also in Swachha Bharat campaign, the focus has been mainly on solid garbages etc. clean roads, clean neighborhood etc. But the most vital aspect i.e the air we breathe in cities has been completely forgotten.
f) We hear that China is trying to tackle vehicular pollution in war footing by bulk manufacturing of electric buses, electric two wheelers etc and replacing the hydrocarbon vehicles. Kolkata and other Indian cities also needs to catch up with China asap.
g) As an immediate remedy, the following measures can be taken.
- All autorickshaws plying on CNG can be converted to solar and battery electric vehicles. as done in Bangalore and the Totos of Kolkata. See youtube or article on same. It is also in news that Soft Bank, Japan will invest in electric autos through Ola, which is a huge business opportunity.
- As 2nd measure, all public buses and city buses can be converted /buyback to electric busses. BEST in Mumbai has introduced very good zero pollution electric city buses of Goldstone make on trial basis and same is running very successfully. Similarly, the taxis, cabs and other commercial vehicles plying within city limits can be converted into zero pollution vehicles, wherever feasible once the autorickshaws and public buses has been fixed.
- Once pollution free public transport infrastructure has been put in place, government can impose heavy congestion tax like Singapore or London to discourage personal vehicles.
- All the above measures will help to reduce air pollution atleast by 50 to 60%.
- Also as additional measure, Peepal tree and Neem tree plantation extensively can be carried out as these trees give out oxygen day and night, replacing other plants which emit carbon dioxide during night., Then there will be more supply of oxygen in the urban areas and natural cooling of the atmosphere.
- Above measures itself is a big industrial and economic opportunity for sustainable technology and have potential to generate a lot of useful employment. I think this should be the most priority area for investment by the Governments as true welfare measure.
For funding such massive green transformation, low cost international funds such as JICA, World Bank, etc. can be looked into.
If above measures are taken, then world will look up to invest more in Bengal and other Indian states. Hope Government with mass public support brings out this eco revolution as fast as possible.
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