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