Alternative approaches to urban transport

There is growing consensus that rapid urbanisation is now inevitable and irreversible. More than half the world's population lives in cities and the number is likely to increase, possibly touching a projected 69.6 per cent by 2050. The world, it seems, has taken a definitive urban turn. This phenomenon, unlike decades before, is today viewed positively. Cities are acknowledged as engines of growth and their ability to produce economic opportunities is appreciated. However, there are two big gaps in this happy story — the poor environmental performance and the depressing inequity.

The problem is best illustrated by the manner in which cities have fared with transportation. It is estimated that cities consume 75 per cent of the energy and emit 80 per cent of the greenhouse gases. With unabated focus on motorised vehicles, cities, it appears, may not be closer to turning things around. The global car fleet is expected to increase three-fold by 2050 most of which - about 90 per cent - will be in the developing countries and their cities. Even in Indian cities, where the share of trips by made by car is low, policies and projects continue to support it. In contrast, much to the disappointment of many, non-motorised transport (NMT), particularly the bicycle, remains ignored despite the benefits, greater social relevance and substantial share in the trips made.

Full article can be read in The Hindu's Survey of the Environment 2010. The publication is now on stands. Copies can be obtained by Registered Post (not V.P.P.) for Rs.80 (Rupees Eighty) by drawing a cheque in favour of "Kasturi and Sons Ltd." (Add Rs.10 for non-Chennai cheques) and sending it to the Circulation Department, The Hindu, 859-860, Anna Salai, Chennai 600002 Email: subs@thehindu.co.in

A. Srivathsan is Deputy Editor, The Hindu

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