Wednesday, April 24Delhi Greens Blog: Greening the World, One Post at a Time!

Solar Powered Cycle-Rickshaws Launched in Delhi’s Oldest and Busiest Market

Chandni Chowk street
A usual scene from Chandni Chowk: Delhi’s oldest and busiest market

Chandni Chowk – a major street in the walled city of Old Delhi, established by the Mughals over three centuries ago, is one of the oldest and busiest markets in all of North India. The region has retained its historical character amidst considerable urban challenges, and the narrow lanes are now almost always choked with congestion.

In the past few weeks, Chandni Chowk featured in the media twice. Once for being declared India’s most polluted residential area and more recently for seeing the launch of solar-powered cycle rickshaws in the capital city. A package to clean the busy Chandni Chowk area has also been declared and solar energy is clearly paving the way for this change!

What is interesting about Chandni Chowk is the fact that although tonnes of goods are traded here every day, the market itself has probably the smallest carbon footprint compared to any other market of a similar magnitude. For such is the situation here, that the only convenient way to transport goods (or people) is by pulling or pushing!

However, increasing congestion and heavy vehicular movement in the area has earned it the dubious distinction of being the ’most polluted residential area’ for NO2 and suspended particulate matter (SPM) pollutants, compared to 326 other Indian locations. Consciousness of this pollution has raised the alarm on the urgency to bring down the pollutant levels while also highlighting the region as a whole.

Perhaps for this reason, the Chief Minister of Delhi chose to launch Soleckshaw: the solar-powered cycle rickshaw at a function in Chandni Chowk last week. Also known as the “green rickshaw,” a soleckshaw weighs 210 Kg, runs at a speed of 15 to 20 Km per hour and can carry load up to 200 Kg. A solar battery of 36 volt, requiring 5 hours of charge, helps it run for up to 60 Km.

The Solekshaw has been built by India’s leading science laboratory and is now slated to be produced on a public-private partnership basis. Realizing the need to act on local issues other than climate change, especially to bring down the air pollution in the region, a Rs.100 crore (US$ 20.6 million) project to clean and beautify the busy Chandni Chowk was also announced at the function.

First posted in EcoWorldly

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Dr. Govind Singh is Co-Founder of Delhi Greens organisation and the Editor-in-Chief of the Delhi Greens Blog.

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  • Syed Saiful Alam Shovan

    Fuel Consumption and Environmental Impact of Rickshaw Bans in Dhaka
    Syed Saiful Alam

    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
    Volunteer of Save Environment Movement?
    Email: shovan1209@yahoo.com

  • Syed Saiful Alam

    Saving the planet one step at a time

    Have you heard of climate change?
    Temperatures are getting higher. Storms are getting worse. Ice is melting and sea levels are rising. Portions of the coast of Bangladesh are likely to go underwater, lost forever. Millions will become homeless. The ability of the earth to sustain people is threatened.

    Why is climate change happening?
    Because people are burning up fossil fuels (diesel, petrol, natural gas, coal) at such rapid rates that future generations are now threatened.

    Is it possible to slow climate change?
    Yes, but we cannot continue to waste time. Carbon dioxide levels are rising rapidly. That is where the number 350 comes in. If we can limit CO2 in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million then we can avoid the worst of the harm to come.

    Is there anything we can do?
    No one person cam stop climate change but everyone contributes something significant. We can slow out own use of fossil fuels by walking and cycling and taking cycle rickshaws rather than using motorized transport. We can reduce our use of electricity. We can avoid, as a nation, burning coal (pure carbon) or selling it to others to burn. We can encourage the government to act to encourage reductions in fuel use and to encourage walking, cycling, and rickshaws.

    This will mean making some changes. Fortunately most of those changes are likely to
    increase rather than reduce our quality of life. Imagine being able to cycle safely in
    Dhaka. Imagine the air being fresh and clean. Imagine children and youth being able to play in side streets. If we move our focus from cars to people, from traveling long
    distances to accessing basic needs close to home, we can reduce congestion and all the misery it causes, We can have more time with family and for the other important parts of life.

    Remember 350 is not just a number. It is not just an ideal. It is something we can all work to make a reality.

    Syed Saiful Alam
    shovan1209(at)yahoo.com

    http://www.dhaka-rickshaw.blogspot.com/
    http://www.dhaka-transport.blogspot.com/

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