Between headlines of the Ranthambore tiger, farmer-crop crisis, scanty rainfalls and excess floods, food contamination, etc, one news which is sinking our hearts is about the high air pollution levels in India. Statistics and facts showing that 15 of the world's 20 most polluted cities are in India, and our rajdhaani topping the list, one can only witness the pollution raised to highly toxic levels. With 9 out of these 15 Indian cities being large cities or metros, the option of moving out or relocating is shunned for most of us.
Although India is now aware of the problem of air pollution, we haven't really equipped ourselves with mechanism to fight the demon. Around a decade ago, the Government introduced stringent vehicular emission standards; and another light sigh of relief was the introduction of CNG. Although both of these were supposed to be a measure to curb rising pollution level, India experienced another problem as an offshoot of these measures - the registrations of vehicles in Delhi alone were increased by over 100%! Most of these being personal vehicles, although now cleaner due to strict emission policies - this sharp rise in the number of automobiles kept the net effect on pollution the same!
The lifestyle upgrades in the upper class society of India has found a temporary fix to the problem - spray your house with air purifiers and fresheners. We fail to understand that this is not even a fix to the problem - infact a bigger problem in itself. Purifying your own private air will not imply that you are not affected by pollution. The irony of the situation is that, we roll up the windows of the car so as to not breathe the polluted air, and prefer the cool breezes pumped by the temperature controllers of our cars, failing to realise that we are actually consuming more fuel by using AC, leading to more emissions and rise of pollutants in the local air and carbon emissions globally.
So we know the major culprit - air pollution. We know from where the cancer arrives in 8 out of 10 cases. We know the health hazards, and we all know the desperate changes we need to make in our own lifestyles. And still, why do I see people booking cars without thinking of public transport as an option. I asked the reason for this to a few friends, and the answer I received was - because the public transport in the city is not always that efficient or convenient or both. Although this point is debatable in non-metro cities, I will still buy the argument. Which forces me to think that, while people can join the change movement for gay rights in the country, and write tens of hundreds of emails to pressurise telcos to subvert net neutrality, why are the same people not even thinking of taking an action to force the Government to improve public transport in their own cities?
Bus, local trains, bicycles and walking power India's mobility. Can Delhi and other cities reinvent the dream of mobility to get out of this urban nightmare? Inventive thinking, actions and confidence to break into new ideas and trash the conservative approaches, is the crying need of the hour.
I think the efforts will bear fruits when, before deciding to walk into a showroom to book an automobile, each individual is webbed into a dilemma of 'taking a bus' or 'booking a car'...
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Samuchit Enviro Tech. firstname.lastname@example.org www.samuchit.com