Dubious distinction: polluting commute

The severity of Bengaluru’s air pollution due to vehicle emissions has been laid bare yet again by a survey report, ‘The Urban Commute, and How it Contributes to Pollution and Energy Consumption’ from the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). The study listed 14 Indian cities, including six mega-cities, with regard to pollution from urban commutes. As expected, Delhi performed poorly, emerging the worst of the surveyed cities with regard to overall emissions and energy consumption, particulate matter, and carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions. Bengaluru’s performance was only marginally better, standing third from the bottom of the list with regard to overall and carbon dioxide emissions and second for nitrogen dioxide emissions. Bhopal can take pride in its relatively clean air, leading the list on lowest overall emissions. Kolkata and Mumbai, which have relatively strong public transport networks, are emitting the least per-travel trip emission. Unsurprisingly, Bengaluru, which has a weak and inadequate public transport system, has the fourth highest per-travel trip emission of the 14 cities surveyed. 

The CSE study reaffirms what scores of other studies have been saying: air pollution in Delhi has assumed crisis proportions and Bengaluru is fast catching up with it. It is a matter of grave concern that authorities in Bengaluru are dragging their feet with regard to tackling the traffic and pollution problems. In fact, it would not be wrong to say that city authorities are adopting policies and making decisions that are increasing the number of private vehicles on our already gridlocked roads. For instance, instead of focusing on expanding the metro rail network and the suburban rail system, the government is considering an elevated road corridor project that will only encourage commuters to use cars and motorcycles.

Bengaluru has not done enough to discourage use of diesel vehicles, either. The Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) has been talking about introducing electric buses but it remains just talk. Diesel buses continue to ply on roads, spewing heavy smoke, contributing to smog and climate change. Studies by Indian scientists show that electric buses make environmental and economic sense. Unlike Bengaluru, other cities are swinging into action to clean up their air. Delhi, for instance, has begun selling fuel that is Bharat Stage (BS)-VI compliant, skipping the BS-IV emission norm. Not only has it become the first city in the country to sell BS-VI compliant fuel but also, it has done so two years ahead of the deadline. Bengaluru needs to take such bold decisions to clean up its air. Air pollution has made Bengalureans vulnerable to a host of respiratory diseases. The government must take robust steps to cut vehicle emissions immediately.

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Dubious distinction: polluting commute

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