Air pollution is hurting us. But while threatening private car usage, why are we overlooking the bikes that contribute the most?

Move aside, trucks - you are exonerated of the sin of polluting Delhi. It's bikes that need to be banned.

 |  3-minute read |   01-11-2018
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This morning at around 7, the Air Quality Index (AQI) of Delhi was recorded at 283.43µg/m³ — we are very sorry to report.

This — for the benefit of readers outside NCR — is to be read as “very unhealthy”. For us Delhiites, the AQI and its readings are like calculating the sum of two and three — we check AQI like we check Google maps for traffic before we step out of the house.

As every year, the government is trying to do something to save Delhizens’ lungs — or would at least like to be seen doing something.

Therefore on Tuesday, Mr Bhure Lal, chairman of the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority, announced that the Graded Action Response Plan (GRAP) will be implemented from Thursday. It comes with a warning —if the authorities feel that the pollution is geting worse, they will have to stop plying of private cars.

While the announcement of “only public transport will be used” is good news on the traffic congestion front, we are not sure how much stopping the cars is going to help in terms of public health and pollution.

For the authorities are impervious to the scientists’ findings.

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has repeatedly stressed that two-wheelers are the biggest culprits causing maximum air pollution.

Of the 85 lakh private vehicles registered in Delhi, over 55 lakh two-wheelers run on the city’s roads every day as opposed to 27 lakh private cars. Now, these two-wheelers are still running on dirty Bharat Stage (BS) IV petrol — not the CNG fuel that has been mandated for buses, taxis and most cars. Let us not even get close to the pollution checks that two-wheeler riders flout notoriously.

delhi-cars_main_110118050258.jpgThe cars and the buses are exonerated of the sin of polluting Delhi's air. It is those bikes that need to be hauled up (Photo: Reuters).

CSE’s Executive Director Anumita Roychowdhury says that two-wheelers are responsible for nearly 32 percent of air pollutants.

Congratulations, bikers! You have exceeded the emissions of not only the private cars you enjoy zooming past (by 10 percent) but also the diesel-run trucks (by about 4 percent). And all this while we have been cussing the trucks for the blackened soot on our white shirts and the tiny particles filling our lungs.

As we gear up to leave those car keys behind, let us not haggle too hard on the auto-wallahs, or curse the DTC drivers for driving the buses and the pedestrians up the pavement.

According to CSE’s data, the 81269 auto-rickshaws on Delhi roads pollute the city least — emitting 4 percent of the pollutants, closely followed by the 4700 DTC buses that are responsible for a bare 7 percent). The compulsion to shift to CNG two decades ago is what redeemed the auto-rickshaws and the buses.

Not that the authorities have not tried their hands and applied their minds to making a cleaner two-wheeler. When AAP launched 'CNG Retrofitment Kits' for two-wheelers, the Central Government said that they were 'not safe' and barred MLOs (Motor Licensing Officers) from installing any such kits. 

So, what is the economic private vehicle alternative to cars?

“Electric scooters,” says S P Singh, senior fellow, Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training (IFTRT). “They are the best alternatives as the CNG’s power pick-up is low, and placing a kit in a two-wheeler is dangerous since the cylinder is never balanced,” he says.

However, the city has absolutely no infrastructure to fuel e-bikes. The few charging points that had been established in the enthusiasm to promote e-bikes are now defunct.

So, the remaining alternative? The two wheels that mother nature has blessed you with — your legs.

Just wear a mask.

Also read: Society of Indian Automobiles complains about shifting to Bharat Stage VI norms. But the switch is absolutely worth it


Rajeshwari Ganesan Rajeshwari Ganesan @rajeshwaridotg

Assistant Editor, DailyO

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