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Study sounds a word of caution on pollution in capital city

Staff Reporter
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Use of personal vehicles on the rise causing a serious concern

The chaotic view of traffic at the AG Square in Bhubaneswar.— PHOTOS: LINGARAJ PANDA
The chaotic view of traffic at the AG Square in Bhubaneswar.— PHOTOS: LINGARAJ PANDA

Centre for Science and Environment, a leading environment advocacy group, on Tuesday warned that in the absence of robust public transport system, Bhubaneswar roads were being filled with personal vehicles leading to rise in pollution.

Making a presentation in the city dialogue on ‘clean air and sustainable mobility’, CSE Executive Director Anumita Roychowdhury said the traffic data for different intersections and road mid blocks in Bhubaneshwar showed that in almost all roads were dominated by the personal vehicles -- 45 to 90 per cent of the traffic volume.

“The share of personal vehicle usage -- especially two-wheelers -- is already very high. Personal vehicles carry close to 40 per cent of daily trips (only two-wheelers carry 33 per cent). Buses carry only 12 per cent of the trips. Already close to half of all households in Bhubaneswar own two-wheelers and 11 per cent own cars. This means more than half of the households in Bhubaneswar have stepped towards personal motorisation.  The share of personal vehicles may exceed the share of sustainable commuting and cross the tipping point,” Ms. Roychowdhury cautioned.

“But during peak hours, a car carries only 1.5 persons as against a bus carrying at least 40-50 people. Two cars occupy same space as one bus, but carry 20 times less people. This means as the number of cars increase people carrying capacity of road will decline creating pressure for more and more land to build more roads. More roads induce more traffic, aggravate traffic jams. This is against the principle of the National Urban Transport Policy which states -- plan for people not for vehicles,” she said. Pointing out that more roads and flyovers are not the answer to ease the traffic, the researcher said innovative designing of intersections, enforcing parking controls and rationalising parking charges on cars would help address the traffic congestion and discourage use of personal vehicles. The government should mandate pedestrian plans and make it conditional to infrastructure funding and investments must be linked with explicit pedestrian and cycling plans, she said. CSE study points out that for a long time, Bhubaneswar did not have to worry about air pollution.

“But over the years, its annual average air quality trends have now started showing deterioration. Out of nine cities monitored in Odisha, -- Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Balasore have high levels of PM10 – tiny particles that go deep inside the lungs. Bhubaneshwar, Angul and Talcher show increasing trends,” it says.

Earlier, speaking on the occasion, Vice-Chairman of Bhubaneswar Development Authority Vishal Dev said, “Bhubaneswar is the fastest growing city in eastern India. Its population is going at rapid rate. Population is likely to touch three million-mark by 2030.

Keeping in mind development taking place in the city, we should plan for a sustainable transport system.” Sanjib Mishra, Commissioner of Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation, said there should be stronger coordination among government departments responsible for operating urban transport system and taxation for urban transport should be made flexible. 

WAKE-UP CALL

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