September 23, 2008

Eco-friendly, non-polluting (Rickshaws): So why ban them?

EVEN WHEN the authorities are busy planning an exit plan for cycle-rickshaws from some of the congested roads in Delhi, supporters of this eco-friendly non-motorised mode of transport ask: Are south Delhi areas where these rickshaws do not ply free of congestion?

Take for instance, Ashram Chowk, where no rickshaws ply .

“Has it helped in anyway? Fact is, congestion is not caused due to cycle-rickshaws, but due to various other reasons.

So what is the point in banning them on certain roads,” asks Nalin Sinha from the Institute of Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).

In its ‘Air Pollution Bulletin October 2006’, the Centre for Science and Environment had said it is estimated that cycle rickshaws save more than one crore motorised trips daily across the capital.

About the ban, it criticised the officials as not having cared to assess pollution and public health impact of replacing such large number of non-motorised trips with motorised ones.

Add to it, the cost factor.

“At any given time, charges by rickshaws would always be less than what an auto rickshaw will charge. For example, I always prefer to take the rickshaw from Nai Sadak to Old Delhi railway station. Moreover, no CNG bus goes this way,” asserts Nazma Bano, a resident of Chandni Chowk area.

Disagrees a senior traffic official, “Private cost may be less, but social cost is more. A cycle rickshaw on any road slows down speed of motorised vehicles, which increases pollution no amount.” Claiming that the Master Plan for Delhi 2021 and even the National Urban Transport Policy place much emphasis on non-motorised transport, the ITDP has taken up cudgels with the High Court and the MCD on behalf of the rickshaw pullers.

“Moreover, the MCD did not even consult the stakeholders and went ahead with the plan without any groundwork,” Sinha points out.

“It is only the MCD, which is responsible for the mess. By not working out the pilot project it has been promising since July 2006, MCD is liable for contempt of the court,” he added.

Sinha also claimed that the MCD does not even have any training facility for the rickshaws and goes ahead with issuing licences just like that.


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