Sunday, October 18, 2009

The future bus system

Everyone is talking about climate change. With the big meeting just 2 months away and no good deal in sight because of countries waiting of their counterparts to take the first step, it now becomes every individual’s responsibility to reduce their carbon footprint if the government can’t come up with a plan. One of the most advised methods are to use public transportation or use bio-fuels for household chores or ride a bicycle to work. Every responsible citizen wants to reduce their carbon footprint but why do we still find it so difficult to shift to public transportation? Didn’t we wish public transportation was more comfortable and fast? In India, there is no certainty of when the bus or trains would arrive or for how long you would be stuck in traffic as we don’t have separate lanes for buses or cycles. Riding a cycle in big cities like Delhi (in India) isn’t a safe option as most of the people have very little sense of traffic rules. With two wheelers available at prices as low as 550 USD and the cheapest car coming at 2000USD and inefficient bus transportation system, it just has become very easy for people to use personal vehicles rather than use public transport. 

The government understands this and since past few years it has made efforts to make public transportation much reliable than before.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

The bus rapid transit means a high-capacity transport system with its own right-of-way, which means high-capacity buses are operated in lanes reserved for their exclusive use. BRT system exists in many countries like Australia, Northern America, Europe, China, Indonesia, Brazil and a few more in South America. It’s a new concept in India with Pune being the first city in India to implement it in 2005. BRT system has been operational in Delhi since 2008 june. Several other states in India are also trying to replicate the idea of BRT system.

                                                                    A daily sight in large cities

Roads constitute 20% of land in Delhi, the highest road to land ratio in the world. The number of motorized vehicles has increased by 9 folds since last 3 decades thus decreasing the average speed, increasing congestion and pollution. The need for BRT arose when it became clear that it makes no sense for the cars to occupy 70% of the road space given that they just move less than10% of people. BRT managed to provide cheap, efficient and fast means of communication but at the cost of slower movement of car traffic. According to TRIPP (Transport Research and Injury Prevention Programme), if people are stuck in jams in their cars, and see buses speeding by, they would realize that it is more costly to travel in car in terms of time.

                              A BRT lane v/s general purpose lane


After the introduction of BRT system, the demand of travelling by buses has increased by 20% in those regions with BRT system. The average traveling time has reduced by almost 30mins and 80% of bus commuters have approved for BRT system in other parts of Delhi. These buses also run on CNG which further continues in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. Total length of road that has been dedicated for BRT is a little less than 100k.m. The government has plans for 292k.m. of BRT by 2020.  But, I believe, if there could have been a 20% increase for just 100k.m, they should cover a larger portion as total road length of Delhi turns out to be over 28,000k.m!

BRT comes as an easy solution for the government to encourage public transportation as it costs 8 times less than construction of metros. The government also plans to increase its metro rail length to 493k.m by 2020 from the existing 128k.m long route.

It hasn’t been easy for the government to introduce BRT and has faced a lot of resistance from some sections of the society, and also want the government to scrap off the plan of BRT. Inspite of the approval by a large chunk of daily travelers, there voices remain unheard as majority are from the lower economic classes. This has slowed down the expansion process. Hopefully, people will understand its importance soon. 


Anindita Nayak

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Where is Australia?

Australia was one of the three countries under the Kyoto protocol which could actually increase their emissions above the 1990 base year. But now Australia’s energy and pollution is spiraling out of control and now the world’s largest per capita emitter of polluting gases! Just a comparison: Some data state that Australia’s 19 million people pollute environment as much as Indonesia’s 200million people.

Inspite of Australia now being the largest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases, I don’t see t Australia in picture as often as we see China or India or E.U or United States. There is a lot of pressure on India, which is just a developing country and has a per capita emission lesser than world’s average per capita. Reports also say that it would lesser than world’s average per capita emissions even in 2020. The Australian government itself agrees that it is on the road to increase the greenhouse pollution by 20% by 2020, but has agreed for only 5% cut in emissions below 2000s levels which is approximately around 4%below 1990s levels by 2020. It might agree for a maximum cut of 15% emissions below 2000levels if all major economies commit to substantially restrain emissions.

When US is hell bent upon India to commit to emissions limits, it hasn’t objected Australia’s decision. India is the home for over one-sixth of world’s population and contributes just little less than 5% of total greenhouse emissions compared to US’s and China’s20%(each) contribution to global greenhouse emissions. Yes, India is one of the largest emitter of green house gases but is it fair to consider India on par with US or Australia? One should consider per capita emission of a country not the total.

Australia’s low participation in climate talks has been objected mostly by their citizens, there is hardly any pressure from other countries. This is making it very difficult for the people in Australia who are persuading the government to take substantial steps to fight climate change.

The responsibility of mitigating climate change largely lies in the hands of all developed countries now. Also, it doesn’t mean that developing nations shouldn’t take measures to reduce their emissions and should ensure that steps taken to for their country’s development are not going to very harmful for the environment. Whats disheartening is watching Australia and other developed nations deciding on their emissions targets depending on what the developing nations would agree to. It is not feasible for developing nations to cap their emissions to as much as developed nations should. If at all developing nations and developed nations agree to similar cuts in emissions then it would either drastically slow down developing nations’ economic growth or make it impossible for mankind to do any good to the environment.

Anindita Nayak