Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Apply the brakes on Vehicles

Apply the brakes on Vehicles

There should be a cap on vehicular population on city's roads, say some officials

Bosky Khanna. Bangalore



T he administration has taken the transfer of development rights (TDR) route to acquire land for its massive projects to widen roads and create signal-free corridors to accommodate the burgeoning population of vehicles on Bangalore's roads.
But this policy will lead to a dead end since it does not address the root cause of the problem — uncontrolled increase in the number of vehicles, say officials in the environment and ecology department.
"There is a need to put a cap on vehicular population on city's roads," says environment and ecology secretary Kanwar Pal. "Bangalore has seen a 14% growth in vehicular population in a year. This is the highest in India," he says.
The country's GDP (gross domestic product) has grown 2.5 times over the past few years. At the same time, the pollution level has also increased five times. This is a matter of concern, he says. "Vehicles are one of the biggest air polluters in Bangalore," he says.
To stop this, the environment, forest and ecology department has written to the urban development department's principal secretary, requesting a restrictive policy on the registration of vehicles. The letter — DNA has a copy — states: "....it has been reported that Bangalore has registered the highest growth of vehicles of 14%, compared to the 8% average in other metros of India. The number of vehicles is much more than the carrying capacity of the roads. It is, therefore, necessary that a restrictive policy of registration of new vehicles in Bangalore is formulated..."
The city roads have 36,27,949 vehicles plying on them; last year, Bangalore had 31,98,289 vehicles.
Pal recently had a meeting with officials of the transport department to discuss ways to restrict the number of vehicles on roads. "It is important to have a socio-economic policy to curb the increasing vehicular population. Various government departments and private companies should be roped in to help in the exercise."
Transport department principal secretary MK Shankarlinge Gowda, however, feels it is not possible to restrict the growth of vehicular population in Bangalore. Bangalore was earlier spread across 250 sq km, he says. But, today, it has grown to 800 sq km. Bangalore now includes seven CMCs and two TMCs. Earlier, there were five RTOs, now there are 10. Thus, the figure of vehicles in Bangalore also looks big, but it is a natural growth, says Gowda. Economic growth is measured by the number of vehicles plying on roads. Restricting their number is not feasible, he says. He says no city has put a cap on the number of vehicles hitting the road.
But, the Metro — a mass public transport system — may help reduce the use of private vehicles and decongest road, he feels.
TG Sitharam, chairman of Centre for Infrastructure, Sustainable Transport and Urban Planning (CiSTUP) at the Indian Institute of Science, says it is possible to regulate to a certain extent the number of vehicles being registered. But it will not help if Bangalore alone puts a cap on the number of vehicles. People will then register their vehicles in other places and drive into the city.
He says Singapore has been successful in controlling the number of vehicles on its roads. "They have made purchasing vehicles difficult by making people pay high premium for a vehicle or wait for a long period to purchase one," Sitharam says.
It is important for city's planners to analyse why the number of vehicles has increased in Bangalore, he says.
The vehicular population has gone up because more and more people are coming to Bangalore. "It is all because of the jobs available. The government should create more jobs in tier-II and other cities with better infrastructure and which can also attract people to shift. This will ease the burden on city's roads," Sitharam says.growth curve: Bangalore has seen a growth of 14% in vehicular population in a year. This is the highest in India

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