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I'll do whatever it takes to protect my child

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Public Health

"I'll do whatever it takes to protect my child" is what Chinese mothers are beginning to say after realising the kind of harm pollution (focus here has been largely on air) is causing to their children. It is all brought out in a brilliant documentary titled "Under the Dome"(with English sub-titles - accessible here) which got 200 million views in 7-10 days, worrying the Chinese govt so much, they blocked it!

All of its 1 hr and 45 minutes is worth seeing.

The fact of the matter is that our cities, including Namma Bengaluru, too are already there, have caught up, or, as in the case of Delhi, overtaken Chinese cities too.

Another worrying factor is "A total of 1,199 new coal-based thermal power plants with a total installed capacity of more than 1.4 million MW proposed worldwide, the lion’s share—455 plants—are in India, according to data from the World Resources Institute", going by this report in Burning coal, apart from releasing massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, has also been proven to be the biggest culprit behind climate change.
So, even as the Modi sarkar is set to fast pace economic growth, going by this column by M J Akbar in the Indian Express, one hopes we don't have to relearn the lessons from the Chinese (and before that, the British) experiences. The experiences have been devastating, and they are going to get exponentially more so, in future.

I too need to be doing whatever it takes to protect my yet to be born grand children.

Muralidhar Rao


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alarming scenario

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Delhi, we discovered, is quietly suffering from a dire pediatric respiratory crisis, with a recent study showing that nearly half of the city’s 4.4 million schoolchildren have irreversible lung damage from the poisonous air. - - - Foreigners have lived in Delhi for centuries, of course, but the air and the mounting research into its effects have become so frightening that some feel it is unethical for those who have a choice to willingly raise children here. Similar discussions are doubtless underway in Beijing and other Asian megacities, but it is in Delhi — among the most populous, polluted, unsanitary and bacterially unsafe cities on earth — where the new calculus seems most urgent. The city’s air is more than twice as polluted as Beijing’s, according to the World Health Organization. (India, in fact, has 13 of the world’s 25 most polluted cities, while Lanzhou is the only Chinese city among the worst 50; Beijing ranks 79th.)

For the full text of the report in New York Times, click here.

Perhaps, Bengaluru too figures in the infamous list of 13 cities - alarming indeed.

Muralidhar Rao
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task involved, and the challenge thereof

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The expert consulted by Hindustan Times to get rid of Delhi’s killer air said that decongesting Delhi should not mean building more flyovers and underpasses, whose ability to reduce air pollution has been questioned. Instead, the solutions should lead to providing people with a viable choices to select alternatives to personal transport.

- - - Vehicles contribute about 40% to pollution. Studies show that one-third of the Capital’s children suffer from breathing ailments and air pollution reduces 3.2 years from one’s life in the national capital.

It also affects productivity of a person as it slows down cerebral activity. All this could be a thing of the past if Delhiites decide that electoral politics in the city-state will be decided on the basis of curbing air pollution.

For the full text of the report in the Hindustan Times, click here.

Delhi CM, Arvind Kajriwal, over the course of his interview by Barkha Dutt on NDTV (past week-end), readily admitted to the need for more buses, and, of all kinds and capacities, on the city roads, if the citizens are to switch to using them from their current dalliance with cars and two-wheelers.

A quick, back of the envelope, estimate for Bengaluru makes out the need for 70,000 odd buses to replace 33 lakh odd private vehicles - check the table below.

Similar would be the requirement for Delhi. And, it's not just the numbers; the management has to be professional too. The question that arises is, is a government-run DTC capable of meeting that challenge?

Hasn't the induction of private players in power supply made for a world of difference to the lives of Delhi-ites (for all of the pot-shots AAP targets at Reliance in pursuance of its vote-bank politics)? - check here. Could the city have even survived if the supplies were to continue under DESU monopoly?

Likewise, can the city afford not to induct professional private players into bus services? So, also, Bangaluru, and other cities, too (check this)?

Muralidhar Rao
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Meanwhile, Bengaluru on a different trip

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Reddy said the government has approved the release of Rs 3,500 crore to the BBMP under various grants to asphalt and develop city roads, construct flyovers and underpasses for better traffic flow. - - - - He said other works including three elevated steel bridges (Shivananda Circle, Ejipura and JC Road), signal-free corridor at Okalipuram and other works will also be taken up. “Funds of Rs 1,500 crore will be released under Nagarottana scheme. The Chief Minister had announced another Rs 1,000 crore where works will be taken by PWD and remaining Rs 1,000 crore is for ongoing works,” he said.

For the full text of the report in the New Indian Express, click here.

We are still talking of fly-overs, underpasses, as also widening of carriage ways by narrowing footpaths, etc to accommodate more and more cars, even with every study (including the one cited in the report mentioned in the post above) stating interalia that "most flyovers have reached their optimal level much before the estimated time".

Our neta's obviously are on a different trip altogether.

Muralidhar Rao
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emphatic case for professionalised bus transport services

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Union environment ministry, which generally avoids sharing details of air pollution-linked deaths, made an exception on Thursday when it said in Parliament that more than 35,000 people had died due to acute respiratory infections (ARI) across India in close to 10 years. More than 2.6 crore cases were reported every year during the period.

Although international studies have attributed far more deaths to air pollution in India, this was a rare official admission that pollution could be causing deaths on a large scale. The number of annual ARI cases reported by environment and forest minister Prakash Javadekar was high by any measure.

For the full text of the report in the ToI, click here.

There can't be a more emphatic an argument favoring professionalised public bus transport services (as sufficiently elabored upon in my post of 9th June - scroll above) than the above. The important question is when are the people going to awaken to this reality, and demand the same from the powers that be.

Muralidhar Rao
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Dirty truth about clean diesel

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Volkswagen played a leading role in convincing people to accept a technology that in many countries is causing a precipitous decline in air quality for millions of city-dwellers: the diesel engine.

For the full text of the column by TARAS GRESCOE in the New York Times, click here.

Well, diesel cars have certainly to go right away. But, for heavy vehicles, there perhaps is not ready substitute. However, there appears to be a new awakening, and hopefully, the entire mobility scenario is set to be re-invented in the near future.

Muralidhar Rao
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do our political masters care?

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Bengaluru generates the second-highest amount of CO2 emissions during travel between work and home, says an international study.

- - - In a research done by scientists from the Indian Institute of Science (Bengaluru), the University of Melbourne, Australia and Chang'an University, China, it was found that Bengaluru has 43.83 per cent commute emission which was second only to Hyderabad's 56.86 per cent.

The researcher say that out of all the cities the research was conducted in, it was observed that cities that had a higher IT population were more inclined to have higher CO2 emissions.

- - - TV Ramachandra, one of the researches from IISc, said, "There is a lack of end-to-end, affordable public transport. The current BMTC buses are not affordable. I say this because even if there are three people in an auto that charges double fare, it would be cheaper than taking a bus. This is the reason that people prefer private vehicles." Ramachandra said another factor contributing to the CO2 emission was the more dispersed and extensive urban sprawl, and the prevalence of gasoline-fuelled two-wheeler motorbikes causing higher emissions. "This is followed by car availability, higher household income, living outside Outer Ring Road, distances from the bus stops, and other significant factors."

- - - Proposed solutions - Several strategies were proposed to reduce the CO2 emissions like introducing a better public transport system, encouraging carpooling and having monorail connectivity throughout the city. Ramachandra said, "If there is affordable public transport, most IT employees will use it. Two-wheelers create health hazard risks as well as accidents. Every employee wants to be safe, and relaxed public transport assures them that." The research also states that in Bengaluru, it is necessary to improve the public transit service and increase the bus-stop coverage.

For the full text of the report (emphasis added by me) in the Bangalore Mirror, click here.

A very good solution was provided by ZipGo, which is essentially an aggregation of the already existing "maxi-cab" operations (check here), bringing along-with accountability to the operations, which didn't exist so far. However, with the state Transport Ministry honchos placing all kinds of hurdles before them, under the pretext of it affecting the revenue earnings of BMTC (the actual reason of course being the protection of the various vested interests of all the elements of the mafia confederation involved), ZipGo has more or less made up its mind to wind up its operations in the city.

Whether protection of BMTC's revenue interests should be seen as over-riding public interest, is another debate, which may be accessed here.

ZipGo is already operational in Delhi, Gurgaon, NOIDA, Mumbai, Pune and will soon be opening up in Hyderabad, Kolkatta and Chennai too. Their view is that they would rather go to cities where the political leadership is welcoming of them, seeing value in their services, than trying to impose themselves where the political leadership is doing everything to obstruct them.

The irony is that the potential is the highest in Bengaluru, as becomes quite clear from the study, cited in the report. For example, if allowed to operate to its full potential, one could readily envisage more than half the 200 odd cars in the complex, where I reside, remaining in the basement on any work-day. Multiplied across the city, it would have the same effect as the odd-even exercise in Delhi, speeding up the traffic flow therewith, and reducing the carbon emission too, simultaneously.

It was seeing this vast potential, as also the impression that the state government was largely progressive in its outlook, and looking for new ideas to solve problems where the conventional approaches had failed all these years, that ZipGo chose Bengaluru as their base. However, their near one year experience has belied all the expectations of the political masters here, and they are now poised to cut their losses, and move out of the city lock, srtock and barrel.

All in all, the state government's approach seems to be "we obstruct", even as the Central government repeatedly talks the language of "we un-obstruct", even as Prof Ramachandra's file reports after reports warning us of the dangers ahead, if we continue the present way.

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