Saturday, 13 November 2010

Air Pollution

Cars pollute as soon as they are turned on, whether they are moving or sitting still in traffic. To blame air pollution on rickshaws because they slow down cars is outrageous. Even when moving smoothly and well-maintained, cars pollute; internationally, cars are the major polluters of our air and the major contributors to climate change. Worldwide, the most air pollution is created by the United States, not because their cars are slowed by rickshaws, or because their cars are poorly maintained, but because Americans drive so much. Cars pollute; lots of cars pollute a lot.

CNG is cleaner than other fuels, but as it is a carbon-based fuel, it still releases carbon dioxide into the air as well as the cancer-causing chemical benzene, for which no safe level of exposure is known. People travelling by foot, bicycle, or rickshaw arrive at their destination without contributing to air pollution; people travelling by a motorized vehicle, even a bus, contribute to air pollution. While the rich are the main sources of air pollution, everyone breathes the air.

Meanwhile, if the rich believe they are somehow immune to air pollution because they live with air conditioning, they might wish to remember that they too must breathe the same air that they are polluting; the more cars, the more they too will suffer.

Parking vs moving

Parking vs moving

Consider the case of Mirpur Road near New Market. One entire lane remains almost entirely unused. In front of New Market it is filled with parked cars; the rest of that lane is empty, except for some pedestrians, as drivers are used to the idea that it is a parking lot rather than a lane, and thus don’t use it.

But if the lane were converted into an additional rickshaw lane, where would car drivers park? If we assigned one parking area for private cars at any section of New Market, and charged per time used—for instance at 30 taka/hour—then two major changes would result:

1. Those who now park all day, and thus are the least efficient users of spaces per people benefited, would park for far less time, or use alternate transport to arrive and thus not park at all;

2. Those arriving from nearby would discover it is cheaper to take a rickshaw or walk, and would thus also arrive by other means.

Both these changes would reduce traffic congestion on Mirpur Road. This would also mean that far less parking spaces are needed, thus freeing up spaces for shoppers who wish to enter and leave quickly—and are more likely actually to make purchases than those who abandon their car for hours. Businesses would also benefit from the increased number of shoppers who will be able to arrive by rickshaws when the size of the rickshaw lane would double.

Syed Saiful Alam
Volunteer, Save the Environment movement, Dhaka

Suggestions for Improving Transport in Dhaka

Suggestions for Improving Transport in Dhaka

1. Maintain the use of rickshaws by
a) Canceling all planned bans on rickshaws from different roads;
b) Creating rickshaw-only lanes on major streets (including those that currently ban rickshaws), and
c) Considering a gradual shift to improved rickshaws that are easier to maneuver and more comfortable for passengers. If the rickshaw licensing system is to be maintained, set a higher level for the number of rickshaws, and base it on research into which all citizens can have input.

2. Cancel all plans for future flyovers, and use transportation budgets to improve public transit and conditions for NMT ( Non motorized transport) .

3. Make cars less affordable and available through reducing import of cars, raising registration fees and taxes, and restricting licenses.

4. Ban cars from small streets and lanes and from congested areas, and greatly reduce parking. Enforce a ban on parking on footpaths and on major streets.

5. Make cycling more safe and attractive by providing separate bicycle lanes on all major roads (creating a continuous cycle lane throughout the city) and by giving bicycles priority at traffic signals so they aren

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Fuel Consumption and Environmental Impact of Rickshaw Bans in Dhaka

Fuel Consumption and Environmental Impact of Rickshaw Bans in Dhaka

Most trips in Dhaka are short in distance, usually one to five kilometers. These trips are perfect of Rickshaws. Rickshaws are cheap and popular mode of transport over short distances. Rickshaws are safe, environmentally friendly and do not rely on fossil fuels. Rickshaws support a significant portion of the population, not only the pullers, but also their families in the villages, the mechanics who fix the rickshaws, as well as street hawkers who sell them food. From the raw materials to the finished product the Rickshaw employs some 38 different professions. Action needs to be taken to support the Rickshaw instead of further banning it in Dhaka. The combined profits of all Rickshaws out earn all other passenger transport modes (bus, rail, boats and airlines) combined. In Dhaka alone, Rickshaw pullers combine to earn 20 million taka a month.

We think that over the coming holiday of Eid du Ajah, new Rickshaw bans will be put into action on roads in Dhaka. Eid was used in the past to place new bans on roads in Dhaka. Last Eid many roads were declared Rickshaw free without public support or approval. By banning Rickshaws roads are clogged with increased private car use as well as increased parking by cars. Banning of Rickshaws on major roads increases the transportation costs for commuters. Not only due to longer trips to avoid roads with bans in effect, but also due to actually having to take more expensive forms of transport such as CNG or Taxi, where in the past a Rickshaw would suffice. The environmental impact of banning Rickshaws is obvious because it exchanges a non-motorized form of transport for a motorized form of transport, thus increasing the pollution and harming the environment. Rickshaw bans harm the most vulnerable in society, mainly the sick, poor, women, children and the elderly; generally those who can not afford or do not feel comfortable on other forms of public transport. To ban Rickshaws also hurts small businesses that rely on them as a cheap and reliable form of transporting their goods.

Rickshaws are ideal for urban settings because they can transport a relatively large number of passengers while taking up a small portion of the road. In 1998 the data showed that Rickshaws took up 38% of road space while transporting 54% of passengers in Dhaka . The private cars on the other hand, took up 34% of road space while only transporting 9% of the population (1998 DUTP). This data does not include the parking space on roads that cars take up in Dhaka . If included this would further raise the amount of space taken up by private cars. Every year the Rickshaw saves Bangladesh 100 billion taka in environmental damage.

The government makes many efforts to reduce traffic congestion in Dhaka but with no success. Blaming Rickshaws for traffic congestion and subsequently banning them from major roads has not had the desired affect. Traffic is still as bad now as it was before the Rickshaws were banned on major roads. Rickshaws thus can not be seen as the major cause of traffic congestion. Instead one should look towards private cars and private car parking on roads as the major cause of traffic congestion.

The space gained by banning Rickshaws is often used for private car parking. The current trend in transport planning reduces the mobility of the majority for the convenience of the minority. The next time a ban on Rickshaws on another road is discussed please take into consideration who is being hurt and who is being helped. For a better transport system in Dhaka we need to create a city wide network of Rickshaw lanes. If this is done Dhaka can reduce its fuel usage dramatically as well its pollution. We ask your help in our fight to keep Dhaka a Rickshaw city. Any information or help is very much appreciated and sought after. I write you this letter to describe the difficulties we are facing and some solutions but they are by no means exhaustive and we look forward to your help and input.

Syed Saiful Alam

Save the Environment Movement

Dhaka. Bangladesh

More transports, more pollution

Let us return to the private car. Whatever convenience and comfort it provides comes at various costs. Cars are the main source of pollutants worldwide. There is no such thing as a clean car; cars just vary in the amount they pollute. Despite increasingly stringent emissions control standards over the decades in the US, cars pollute more than they used to-because people are driving farther.

It is difficult for us to appreciate just how much cars pollute. The air in Dhaka City, after all, improved dramatically after the banning of two-stroke baby taxis, and again with the introduction of unleaded fuel. However, this is by no means an indication that the air in Dhaka is clean. Any trip to the countryside is a reminder of the pleasure of breathing clean air. Even in Dhaka, if we wake up early and take a walk, we can experience a bit of the pleasure of fresh air; as each car passes, we can also understand just how much each car pollutes the air. As the streets fill with cars, the pollution rises.

On hartal days, despite large numbers of people moving about the city, the air is fresh and the city (violence aside) is quiet. Cars-wide paved roads needed to accommodate them-also emit a great deal of heat, making Dhaka even more insufferable in the many hot months.

Presumably one component of civilization is respecting the rights of others. The attitude of drivers-who represent the wealthiest portion of society-that they alone should have full access to roads-is anti-democratic, anti-civilization, and disturbingly elitist.

A society in which people fail to respect the rights of others, and in which the rich believe they should have special privileges on the roads as well as in every other aspect of life, is a society destined to fall into crime, selfishness, viciousness, and lack of the neighborly friendliness that allows people to live comfortably together.

Syed Saiful Alam
Save the Environment Movement
Dhaka, Bangladesh