Monday, 11 January 2016

It takes two to tango

Delhi government’s odd-even traffic policy aimed at putting check on rising levels of air pollution in the city has been fetching mixed bag of reactions since its very inception. Some people are finding it an impractical and unsustainable idea which would only cause inconvenience to common people whereas there is a sizeable segment of society which is taking it as a tiny but potential step towards creating better environment. Now as a week has been over since the roll out of the scheme, it seems to see some daylight.

As a common Delhiite my first observation is not about air quality but the roads. Free from the maddening crowd of vehicles they seem to have heaved a sigh of relief, especially during the peak office hours. Driving to workplace is a hectic experience in Delhi with honking horns creating din in ears, two-wheelers making their way through the narrow passages between road biggies, by lanes occupied by scooters, motorbikes, and even cars giving no space to cycle riders whom they actually are meant for. For pedestrians, crossing a road at busy hours means waiting for long before the rushing cars and bikes give them way but since the onset of New Year the scenario looks somewhat changed. With less traffic on the roads, you are less vulnerable to traffic jams and hope to ride with little more dignity on roads. Reduction in commuting time and parking convenience are added benefits.

But like anything else this policy has its own odds. We cannot undermine the fact that mobility is something very essential to growth, be it an individual or a geographical unit but at the same time it necessarily doesn’t come by using private vehicles. This mobility can also be achieved through self-sufficient and efficient public transport system. The government is trying to even out the odds in this regard by promoting car pooling, making thousands of extra buses ply on the roads and more frequent and better metro services but still daily commuters are experiencing some practical problems, say, metro stations being very far from their houses, auto rickshaws overcharging and refusing to go to any place not of their choice etc. No doubt efforts by the government need to be taken to a level where people start enjoying hassle free public transport instead of tedious driving to their destination but this cannot happen overnight.

One more reason of fretting is government’s decision of keeping two-wheelers, women drivers, VIPs etc. outside the ambit of the policy. Yes, it is a valid point which has also been questioned by the High Court of Delhi. Experts tell two-wheelers come second in polluting air only after trucks. Out of 89 lakh registered vehicles in Delhi 45 lakh are reported to be two-wheelers. But the government plans not to give such exemptions to two-wheelers and women drivers in next phase of the scheme. One more logic put forward by those against the policy is that construction dust, agricultural waste burning, illegal mining etc. also prove hazardous to environment, then why should the sword dangle only over the automobiles? Right. Let us see if the government. implements cleaning by vacuum cleaners from April 1, 2016 as announced by It. It may give respite from dust problem but we should remember that the experts have suggested that vehicular emissions prove more noxious than construction dust as they affect the people commuting on roads as well those who reside close to main roads.

Not going into the politics of the issue, Let us wake up and smell the coffee. Delhihas become world’s most polluted city. Tests conducted by city doctors reveal that one out of four Delhiites is suffering with bad lung health. Even young school going children are facing respiratory problems and nebulizing. Health researchers have come up with the studies which suggest that microscopic particles present in diesel are carcinogens and reactive gases like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide etc. emitted by vehicles damage human cells and lead them to inflammation of respiratory system which results in various respiratory diseases.

Let us come out of our respective comfort zones and cooperate the government in implementing the scheme as it takes two to tango. I appeal not to resort to using fake number plates, buying two-wheelers, looking for exemptions. Let time tell whether this policy will work or not but please give it a chance for the sake of our future. Let us set an example for others to follow. Let us espouse it, at least for sometime in an effort to give our next generation a cleaner and clearer air to breathe. As Alexander Lowen once said:

“We live in an ocean of air like fish in a body of water. By our breathing we are attuned to our atmosphere. If we inhibit our breathing we isolate ourselves from the medium in which we exist. In all Oriental and mystic philosophies, the breath holds the secret to the highest bliss.”

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