Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tackling effects alone

Found this article (online) about Mumbai in a Calcutta newspaper. The High Court is urging the Municipal Corporation to declare car-off in days in Mumbai as a means to reduce pollution. The line of thought is why should 85% of the population suffer due to the 15% who use their vehicles. There is a genuine issue - pollution and a declared villain - the folks who use their vehicle to commute. Has the makings on a needless saga.

This makes as much sense as the Traffic Police in Mumbai putting up energy guzzling electronic signs to flash statistics of drunk drivers arrested , messages like - don't honk . Implication being all problems on the roads is solely due to the indiscipline of motorists . Never mind that most roads resemble the moon's surface , traffic signs in many places don't work or are not even installed , BMC has thoughtlessly dug up roads in an entire area reducing the lanes available for traffic movement , corrupt officials have turned a blind eye to pavements and roads being encroached , successive governments and the municipal corporation have not made the effort to develop the public transport adequately . I have read often that Mumbai has a very good public transportation system compared with many other parts of India. Well , in the land of the blind the one-eyed is king.

Coming back to the pollution issue . It is a genuine problem . One that affects most residents of Mumbai. Commuting takes much longer than it should. The solution for that is not to mandate car off days . First and foremost develop the public transportation system in quantity , quality and frequency which incentivizes travel by public transport. Once a robust and comfortable public transportation is in place then to experiment with car-off days makes sense. The government need not do it all by themselves . Some of the bus , train transport can be privatized. Improving the public transport takes vision , will , ability to implement plans within specific timelines * - all of which our successive governments and municipal corporations have so far not demonstrated.
* cases in point - 
1. The Metro . It looks like a fairy tale ending . And then they built it happily ever after....
2. Bandra-Worli sea link

We need to work on genuine, long term solutions rather than waste time on impractical (at this point in time) ideas like 'car off days'. 

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