Arvind Kejriwal?s no-car-day initiative worth emulating

CarFreeDay RFIGNew Delhi (ISJ) – The recent initiative of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to go ‘car-free’, even for a small stretch of Delhi’s clogged roads, was not without consequences. Ironically, the top cop of the national capital tried to scuttle it on the ground that he was not consulted before taking such a decision. But last minute intervention by the Lieutenant Governor Najib Jung, who found some logic in the move, ensured the maiden campaign went off for a stretch between Red Fort to India Gate from 0700 to 1200 hours.

Kejriwal’s maverick initiative received validation from scientific community. The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the not-for-profit public interest research and advocacy organisation with its headquarters in New Delhi, which monitored the ambient air quality indicated a dramatic drop of pollution levels by 60 per cent.

“By implementing car-free day and by choosing a national holiday for it when car volumes are already low, the Delhi government has proven that reducing car numbers can significantly bring down pollution in a city where air pollution kills at least one person every hour and impairs the lungs of every third child,” said CSE in a release.

NoCarDay KejriwalCSE has called to scale up integrated public transport system, safe walking and cycling, limit legal parking and making parking more expensive, impose high taxes on cars and restrict their movement in congested parts.

“Though this event has been planned for one road stretch a day every month to help build public awareness, this will need simultaneous action to restrain car usage on a daily basis for the real change. Otherwise, this will get reduced to only a symbolic gesture. Restraint on cars can help to save lives and protect the lungs of our children,” said CSE Executive Director Anumita Roychowdhury.

CSE exposure monitoring on the car free stretch has thrown up stunning results. A day ahead of the car-free-day, the road stretch from Red Fort and India Gate had high traffic volumes, the PM10 level was as high as 750 microgramme per cubic metre (cu m) and the PM2.5 level was 689 microgramme per cu m. This was three times higher than the average ambient PM2.5 level in the city.

However, on October 22 – the car-free-day, the pollution levels dropped dramatically - the PM10 level was 310 microgramme per cu m and PM2.5 level was 265 microgramme per cu m – a drop of 59 per cent in PM10 levels and 62 per cent in PM2.5 levels compared to the previous day.

Particles less than or equal to 10 micrometres in diameter are so small that they can get into the lungs, potentially serious health problems. Ten micrometres is less than the width of a single human hair. Even thinner is particles of PM2.5 (100 times thinner than a human hair)

Delhi already has 8.8 million vehicles and is adding more than 1400 a day. In one year between 2013-14 and 2014-15 alone, the vehicle registration has increased 14 per cent.Delhi has more vehicles than Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai put together.

The latest Economic Survey of Delhi 2014-15 has shown that the number of cars has increased 2.7 times in 15 years. This is making enormous demand for road space and parking space that the city cannot satisfy any more.

This makes, Delhi has much more cars per 1000 people than some of the wealthiest cities in the world that have adopted car restraint policies. Delhi has 157 cars per 1000 people whereas Singapore has 38 cars per 1000 people and Hong Kong only 25.

Image courtesy: Delhi Government

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