Greater thrust on use of public transport over private vehicles, e-mobility and use of waterways as means for mass transit “could prove game- changers” in addressing the issue of air pollution in urban areas, experts today said. The India centre of Manila-based global NGO Clean Air Asia has brought together experts from various domains under one umbrella — Clean Air Knowledge Network (CAKN), seeking to create a capacity building forum for air quality management and strategise funding options, as also to identify key modalities of the network. “We definitely need a better policy for use of public transport in cities. I think the society has now gone beyond the aspirational level of owning a car, and greater good is more in focus. “So, focus has to be made on use of public transport over private cars. And, this certainly can be a big game-changer,” said Rashmi Urdhwareshe, Director, Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) Pune. She was speaking at a session held here during a day-long workshop for members of the CAKN.
Jagan Shah, Director of National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) and board member of the NGO, emphasised on the need to have convergence of various platforms working on reduction of air pollution and having it as an inherent part of the Smart City mission. “The issue that we need to discus is whether the urban transport transition to e-vehicles, use of big data and better ICT modules, and waterways transport can prove to be game- changer. “Also, our policies need to be far more holistic and encompass all aspects of urban pollution, including its health impact,” he said. Gufran Beig, Project Director of SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research) said, “New vehicles are not much of a problem as old vehicles and their ageing, which affect the air quality.” IIT Kanpur Professor Mukesh Sharma said the smallest of the emission sources should be taken as seriously as big sources.
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“Besides, e-mobility can be prove a successful model only if we have adequate infrastructure to back it, i.e., charging point for e-vehicles at regular events,” he said. “Also, if a technology module can be developed to find offenders by level of emissions, like a criminal is tracked, that would be a step further,” Sharma said. Deputy Commissioner, Non-communicable Diseases, Health Ministry, Damodar Bachani said, “A health monitoring system could be evolved to correlate incidences of diseases and other metrics like whether drivers of vehicles are alcoholic or smokers, with the area’s pollution level to come with a proper policy.” Clean Air Asia was established in 2001 as the premier air quality network for Asia by the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and USAID. “Our mission is to promote better air quality and livable cities by translating knowledge to policies and actions that reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from transport, energy and other sectors,” according to the NGO’s website.