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'Bengal must consider cycling essential part of transport'

Posted on Jan 21 2014 | IANS

Kolkata, Jan 21 : With urban transport contributing significantly to air pollution but the West Bengal government imposing a ban on cycling in Kolkata, a scientist Tuesday hoped the state government would take note that cycling and other non-motorised transport means are "an essential part" of the system.

Prodipto Ghosh, a distinguished fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and former union nvironment and forests secretary, said it was a "curious decision", when metropolitan cities like Delhi, Pune and Bangalore are promoting cycling, Kolkata, where vehicular emission is high, is not considering it.

"I hope West Bengal government considers cycling as an essential part of urban transport mix. I hope the decision has been thought out carefully because cycling occupies least road space, is environment friendly and health friendly," he said at the 'Improved Vehicles and Clean Fuel for Better Air Quality in Kolkata' workshop here.

The Kolkata Traffic Police, through a May 29 gazette notification, banned cycles, hand carts, pull-carts, tri-cycles and other forms of non-motorized vehicles from 174 major and minor streets in the city.

The government claimed the restrictions were imposed to bring down traffic jams and increase the average speed of vehicles in the congested city.

Ghosh argued that weaker sections of society are dependent on non-motorised transport and the new infrastructure put in place, doesn't take into account the need for it.

"Modern infrastructure doesn't facilitate NMT. This neglect is difficult to explain."

According to statistics cited by Ghosh, by 2025, 38 percent of India's total population will live in cities, and this shift will bring about more private vehicles and result in traffic congestion and increased pollution.

"We need to look at efficient traffic management that could tackle the problem. Older vehicles also contribute to pollution and public transport should be increased instead of more private vehicles," he said, adding that around 70 percent of private vehicles carry only one passenger.

Implementing the Bharat IV emission standards across India and a shift towards Bharat V would be another important aspect to ensure a clean environment, he said.

For the eastern metropolis, Ghosh suggested tram cars be revamped and utilised like in European countries to solve its public transport problems.

"It would be a mistake to continue to neglect the tram system. They are cleaner and faster."

The conference was organised jointly by TERI and the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB).

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