Sunday, 3 January 2016

Breathing Easier in New Delhi

We're used to the pictures of pollution in Beijing where masked people can barely see their way through the streets. But the situation in the Indian capital is far worse, three times worse. It's air is now the most polluted in the world.

So, in New Delhi, on New Year's day they started a two-week experiment, keeping cars off the road on an every-other-day basis to combat air pollution. There are several exemptions to the rule including two-wheeled vehicles. Some say  motorcycles and scooters weren't included even though older two-stroke scooters have been described as "super polluters," because there would be too many people for the public transit system to handle.

Now, I like to think of scooters and motorcycles as healthier choices for the environment than cars but the research proves me wrong. And  the New Delhi experiment is telling. While cars account for 22 per cent of the particulate matter in the city's air, two-wheeled vehicles account for 32 per cent, according to a study by the Centre for Science and Environment. (Trucks account for 28 per cent.) But the number that's most startling is that public buses only account for 4 per cent of the particulate manner.

I'm a fan of two-wheelers but it's hard not to argue that buses - or other forms of public transit - make the best choice for the environment in congested cities like New Delhi. And that poorly maintained old technology gas-powered scooters and motorcycles are as much as a problem as cars. China has already restricted their use giving a boom to the development of electric vehicles. Maybe it's time India consider the same measures.

One entrepreneur at least, a woman, is ready. She's introducing electric scooters to the commuter market.

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