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Issues and perspectives

Paper published in Sustainable Development an Interdisciplinary Perspective
Edited by Dr. Guljit K. Arora Ph.D, and Arunabh Talwar M.D., F.C.C.P. Research
and Publishing House, in association with Human Development Research Centre,
New Delhi, 2005.

The paper focuses on the growth and pattern in ownership and use of motorized vehicles
within the framework of sustainable development. There is a considerable evidence to
demonstrate that the current mega-trends in transport are at odds with the imperative of
maintaining ecological balance. An attempt has been made to substantiate the argument
from the empirical evidence available, especially in the Indian context. A variety of
policy strategies have been suggested to reconcile the economic objectives of transport
with the attendant environmental concerns.
Recently, transport questions have increasingly been addressed in the context of
ecologically sustainable development (Banister and Button 1993, Button, Nijkamp and
Priemus1998). Transport is, today, positioned in the conflicting role between economic
and environmental interests. Transport, as an infrastructural support is a pre-requisite for
economic development. An efficient transport system enhances production and
consumption and promotes quality of life. A robust transport system improves the
accessibility of all the regions in a country, while simultaneously being consistent with
environmentally sustainable outcomes. Transport can promote production and
consumption but also has an intricate linkage with the environmental quality of these
economic activities. The environmental effects of transport itself are enormous. Transport
erodes the natural resource base of an economy besides polluting the environment in a
big way. Half of the current world oil production, for example, is consumed by motor
vehicles alone. The world over, energy use and transportation are the two main
contributors to ozone and green house gases, besides polluting urban air in a big way.
Transport Mobility Trends
The world, today, has a fleet of more than 600 million road vehicles, where
growth has constantly outpaced that of the human population. Since 1950, the global
vehicle fleet has grown tenfold and is expected to cross the one billion mark by the year
2025. Urbanization, which has reshaped the worlds landscape since the Second World

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War, invariably means more vehicles and more travel. Within a metropolis, trip distances
become longer as new housing colonies spring on urban outskirts. Currently, the vehicle
fleet is concentrated in the high-income economies of the world. If current transport
policy patterns continue, the motor vehicle kilometer traveled in OECD countries is
expected to increase by 40 percent by 2020. The problem is going to be further
compounded by a similar upsurge towards mass motorcar ownership in Asian cities. In
the 1950s only a small elite owned private vehicles in Asia. However, by 1970,
Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore had more than 50 cars per thousand, and the
numbers had crossed 100 per thousand for Tokyo. Delhi adds 500-700 vehicles everyday,
taking its vehicle population from 2.35 lakhs in 1975 to 37 lakhs in 2004, the increase
being heavily skewed in favour of cars and two wheelers. The number of cars which was
only 1.57 lakhs in 1984-85 rose to 8.41 lakhs in 1998-99 and is expected to cross the 25
lakh mark by 2009-10. India, not only, now produces three times the number of cars it
made eight years ago, but the number of models has increased ten fold over as many
years. For the Indian consumer, the options to acquire a car keep getting better. From a
three model line-up in the 1980s, the market has now exploded with new choices coming
up every day. Today, a new car model is being introduced every couple of months, fastest
growing segment being luxury cars. Table 1 shows the rapid growth of registered vehicles
in India from a meager 0.3 million in 1951 to 60 million in 2002.
Table1-Total Number of Registered motor vehicles in INDIA (in thousands)
Year as on 1951
31st March






2001(P) 2002(P)









Cars, jeeps 159

and taxis












































@ includes omni-buses


(P) Provisional

Note: * Others include tractors, trailers, three-wheelers (passenger and goods

vehicles and other miscellaneous vehicles which are not separately classified)
Source: Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (2000), Motor Transport Statistics of

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There is, however, an intricate link between economic growth and transport
behavior which explains current mega-trends in mobility patterns (See Table 2).
Historical data suggests that, throughout the world, traffic volume (motorized mobility)
grows in tandem with the increase in personal income. As average income increases, the
annual distance traveled per capita increases more or less in the same proportion. In
OECD Europe, on an average, one point increase in GDP (Gross Domestic Product) has
been accompanied by an increase of about two points increase in road freight mobility
and one and a half points increase in private car traffic. The developing countries of Asia
exhibit a similar trend. It is not surprising that Delhi, which has the highest per capita
income in the country, accounts for a vehicle population equal to the combined strength
of Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. It is observed that, on an average, people devote a
predictable fraction of their income to transportation. In developing countries, this
fraction is typically around 3-5 percent, where people rely more on non-motorised
transport. The fraction tends to rise with automobile ownership, stabalising at 10 to 15
percent The industrial nations belonging to OECD have already completed this
automobile transition. In future, developing countries will contribute a rising share to
global traffic volume as their average income is expected to grow faster than those of
OECD nations.
In India, the sale of passenger cars has already crossed the one million mark in the
annual domestic market, which is growing at the rate of 20 to 30 per cent. However, the
trend can not be explained solely by the growth of the economy, which is booming only
at rate of only 6-7 per cent. The phenomenon has emerged primarily due to spurt in the
income of the rich, reduction in taxes and duties on cars, softening of interest rates and
easier availability of bank loans to both rural and urban sectors. According to CSO
estimates the retail loans as a percentage of disposable income have increased from 3.5-4
per cent in the year 2000 to 8 per cent in March 2004.
Table 2:

Relationship between transport growth and economic growth


Per capita GDP

Number of Vehicles

(in thousands)

(in US dollars ppp)

Per 1,000 people









































Sourse: Anon, Transport Statistics of Great Britain,2002; Anon, CIA Word Fact book,2002; Anon,
Automotive Industry2001 and beyond 2001; Anon, Asia pacific cooperation,2003; E A Vasconcellos, Urban

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Transport, Environment and equity-the case for developing countries, Earthscam Publications Ltd, London,

Even though many countries have tried to manage transport within the confines of
ecological boundaries, it has been more than offset with a structural rise in spatial
mobility. In most countries not only road traffic has more than doubled in past two
decades but the trend is particularly skewed in favour of private cars, and trucks. Since
1970 fleet of road vehicles in the world has averaged 4.7 per cent for cars and 5.1 per
cent for trucks. Table 1 gives the break up of different modes of transport and their
growth in India from 1951 onwards which exhibits a phenomenal increase in favour of
private vehicles. Delhi has witnessed an unprecedented increase in private car ownership
and mobility in last one decade and a half and the trend continues unabated. More than 91
per cent of on road transport traffic in Delhi, 88 per cent in Banglore and 83 per cent in
Kolkata consist of cars and two wheelers, buses constitute only 1, 1 and 2 per cent
respectively. In spite of a sharp increase in the number of cars in Delhi, for example, their
importance in meeting travel demand is insignificant compared to that of buses and two
wheelers.(see table3 )
In Western Europe, the share of buses and railways which accounted for 70 per
cent of the total traffic volume came down to a meager 15 per cent in 1997. The scenario
has a unique structural dimension in South Asia. Public transport in the region meets very
high level of travel demand of its people despite extremely decrepit and ill-maintained
vehicles in its fleet. In Delhi, buses meet 64 per cent of the travel demand of the
commuters even though they form less than 1 per cent of the total vehicular fleet. In
Mumbai, buses account for 59 per cent of all trips in the city, and use only 5 per cent of
the road capacity. While in 1957, the most eco-friendly mode, namely bicycle, met 36 per
cent of travel demand in Delhi, it declined to 17 per cent in 1981 and then dramatically to
just 6.61 per cent in 1994.

Meeting Travel Demand in Delhi-Mode Wise (in per cent) Year
















Motor Car






























Source: ORG, Household Travel Survey in Delhi, Final Report, September, 1994

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At present private vehicles constitute 80 per cent of transportation in metros.

India, like many other profligate developing countries, has adopted an extremely energy
intensive growth path, which is surprisingly, at variance with the practice in many
advanced countries of the OECD. To achieve a one point growth in GDP in the country,
we consume twice as much energy as in the rich countries. Western Europe and Japan, to
take another example, consume 40-60 tons of oil to add $ 1 million to their national
income. In sharp contrast to this, the Indian requirement is 189 tones. What is most
distressing is that of all modes of transport road transport is most devastating in its impact
on furthering air and soil pollution besides being a high risk factor to human life and
safety which is portrayed by the following table.
Table 4. The impacts on the environment by modes of transport
Air Pollution


Soil pollution














*small impact; ** significant impact; *** great impact

Source==Gwilliam and Geerling, Research and Technology Strategy 1992.
Environmental Impacts
Worlds people will, increasingly, live in cities, so traffic jams and pollution will
loom large in their lives. Worst of all will be mega-cities of Asia. By 2025, Beijing and
Kolkata will each be home to as many as 20 million people, Mumbai to 25 million. The
explosive growth of cities is devouring the countryside around them and fast turning into
mega settlements. These mega trends makes fusion of economic needs with ecological
constraints a difficult task. Such a trend, as is occurring, may be wholly undesirable from
the economic and ecological standpoint, and destructive of rational transport and energy
priorities. With explosive growth of cities come problems like environmental
degradation, higher cost of transportation and infrastructure. For example, 23 million plus
cities, which accommodate only 8 per cent of Indias population, account for 33 per cent
of total motor vehicles. Unless this trend is reversed, efficient transport management,
which is a very complex process, not only will remain elusive, but create insurmountable
problems. Transport in our modern society has a wide variety of negative environmental
consequences (externalities) which manifests in depletion of natural resources, noise,
local and global air pollution, landscape deterioration, urban sprawl, fatalities, congestion
and socio-psychological stress.

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Today, globally, motor vehicles put out 900 million tons of carbon dioxide a year
which constitutes 15 per cent of the total emission. Urban air pollution has worsened in
most large cities in the developing world due to increased reliance on motorized vehicle
for transportation (see table 5). Despite pollution control effects, air quality has
approached dangerous levels in a number of mega cities, such as Beijing, Delhi, Jakarta,
and Mexico City, where pollutant levels sometimes exceed WHO air quality standards by
a factor of three or more. Delhi, once a green city, is now clubbed with the most polluted
cities of the world. Delhi is also the worst ranked in levels of air pollution among the four
metropolis in India. A Delhiite inhales pollutants per day, on an average, equivalent to
one and a half packets of cigarettes, says the Delhi Environment Status report (1995).
Delhiites, for example, breathe a staggering 1300 metric tons of pollutants everyday,
thanks to 3.5 million vehicles on its roads. The import liberalization policy followed by
the Indian government since 1990s has resulted in the production of a wide variety of
automobiles including two wheelers, passenger cars and commercial vehicles, without
any constraint on engine size, fuel efficiency and pollution norms. Inadequate road space
and failure to adhere to road discipline impedes the flow of traffic which means 20 per
cent extra fuel. A whopping 3.22 lakh litres of petrol and 1.01 lakh liters of diesel are
wasted everyday in Delhi due to vehicles idling at traffic signals. Idle traffic not only
means waste of precious fuel but also leads to increase in pollution density in the vicinity,
I.T.O. junction being the most quoted example.
In 1997, of the total vehicle population in India of about 37.6 million, over two
thirds were two wheelers. There were also about a million three wheelers. Virtually all
the Indian scooters (and until 1985 all motor cycles) use two stroke engines that are
intrinsically polluting because of their engine design. Unfortunately, the supply of mass
transport services is not in conformity with the growth of urban population and
expanding economic activities. This ever widening demand-supply gap is leading to
greater reliance on personal mode of motor transport. Consequently, private vehicles in
India have been rising at a rate of 10-15 per cent per annum.
Measures initiated to contain vehicles exhaust like conformity to Euro emission
norms are nullified by the sheer increase in the volume of traffic. Introduction of better
technology and fuel efficiency in cars and mandatory use of non-polluting energy
sources like compressed natural gas for buses in Delhi, for example, may not achieve the
desired results: the exponential increase in number of vehicles will undo the benefit of
these steps. Moreover, in the case of cars, Euro I and Euro II norms only specify the
maximum permissible amount of exhaust emissions (in gms per km) without limiting
vehicle kilometers traveled (VKT). A much more effective indicator of polluting
propensity of a vehicle is to take a multiple of emission per KM and VKT.
Similarly, debate about appropriate emission norms highlights many other factors
which may affect ambient air quality much more. According to a US study in the 1990s
by Beaton, et al, emission distribution was highly skewed-that 7 per cent of the vehicles
accounted for 50 per cent of the total on-road CO emissions and 10 per cent of the
vehicles accounted for 50 per cent of the HC emissions, termed as the gross polluters.
(Reddy, C.M) It is often assumed that gross polluters are simply old vehicles(But)

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the highest emitting 20 per cent of the newest cars were worst polluters than the lowest
emitting 40 per cent of vehicles from any model year, even those from before the advent
of catalytic converters (1970 and earlier). These data are typical of results across the US,
and at many other locations world wide. He study is a pointer to a new approach towards
emission reduction strategies: "it found that a emission reduction strategy (at an average
cost of just $200 a vehicle) decreased HC and CO levels by an amazing 55 and 24 per
cent more than scrapping the 73 per cent of all vehicles that were over three years old and
at an estimated one-tenth the cost". The Society for Automobile fitness and environment
in India has estimated that with an investment of as little as Rs.12000 the emission levels
of all the old commercial vehicles on the roads already can be brought below the current
norms for the new vehicles (Reddy).
The recent debates in India about appropriate emission norms, invariably,
obscure many issues which impact ambient air quality. Fuel quality is a major contributor
to toxic emission: adulteration of automobile fuel is widely rampant further compounding
the already serious problem. The question of the composition of exhaust, and the trade off
between different emissions i.e. lead / benzene, CO/ methane, depending upon the choice
of fuel is a very tricky question and often results in different environmental agencies
taking strong sides which are contradictory. What is often ignored is that all types of
emissions are toxic and their deleterious effect is felt only when the threshold level is
crossed. When autos displaced horses in the 1920s, the auto looked initially like an
enormous improvement to the environment. Many argue that the current air quality
problem will be solved with cleaner vehicles: with the introduction of new technologies
like the catalytic converter and fuels of a more benign nature, the emissions of gases like
CO, particulates and SOx have decreased. However, the continued growth in vehicle
miles traveled will overwhelm theses improvements in vehicle emissions. The sum total
of polluting gases in the air now cannot be improved by just tuning up each car. The
problem now is not with each car. The problem is with the sum total of cars, and what is
needed a systems change..

Table 5- Estimated vehicular emission load in selected metropolitan cities

Name of
the city

Vehicular pollution load (tones per day)




















Bangalore 2.62




















Central Pollution Control Board, New Delhi "Urban statistics", October, 1996, Town and Country Planning
Organization, Ministry of Urban Affairs and Employment, Government of India

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Till the 1980s polluted air in the cities in India could be traced more to industrial
activities. For over a decade now, it is evident that more than half the pollution load in
our cities is due to automobile exhaust. In Delhi, factories were responsible for more than
half the toxic emissions in 1970-71. But by the 1990s, it became apparent that the major
contributor to air pollution was not factories but automobiles.(see table 6 )
Table 6Industrial

Percentage share of air pollution by various sources in Delhi




2000-01 *

Source WWF 1995 * estimate

The impact of polluted air on the health of urban residents has now been
documented in almost every city. The tenth five year plan document voices considerable
concern over growing air pollution from vehicles and its impact on health. Every year in
developing countries, a million people die from urban air pollution. Air pollution due to
vehicular traffic has become the single most important reason for respiratory diseases
today, children being particularly vulnerable. A 1991-92 World Bank study of the health
effects of air pollution in 36 Indian cities, found that high SPM levels had resulted in
40,000 premature deaths each year. A Centre for Science and Environment study
registered a 28 per cent increase in this estimate. A study conducted by Chest Medicine
and Environment pollution Research Centre, Mumbai found that the prevalence of
asthma in children had increased from 4 per cent to 6-7 per cent now. In heavily polluted
areas, it was 14 per cent. Increased propensity of hypertension and ischemic heart
diseases were found near traffic junctions, oxides of nitrogen, particulates and CO being
the main culprits. The trends are identical in most other mega cities, namely Delhi,
Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. The latest air quality According to WHO, on an
average, a Delhite visits a doctor at least 15 times in a year for health problems
specifically caused by pollution. The situation is particularly alarming in Delhi.
According to Delhi environmental status report (1995) the incidence of respiratory
diseases in Delhi is twelve times the national average. Besides foul air in cities, one has
to cope with traffic noise and dust that speeding vehicles raise, especially in residential
Besides slow poisoning, vehicular traffic takes its toll in a more dramatic fashion
as well (see table 7 ) Road traffic accidents have assumed epidemic proportions all over
the world, especially in Asian countries. One of the dismaying corollary to the regions
economic prosperity and the accompanying boom in motor-vehicle purchase by the
nouveau-rich has been a staggeringly high traffic-fatality rate. Car ownership in China

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jumped 41 per cent between 1999 and 2002, while over the same period road accidents
twice as fast, by more than 83 per cent. In India, like clockwork, more than 80.000 people
get wiped out on the roads every year. According to a WHO report, with just 16 per cent
of worlds fleet of motor vehicles, Asia accounts for more than half of the roughly 1.2
million traffic fatalities. It is estimated that by 2020, traffic accidents will account for one
in every 20 lost years of healthy life, world-wide. What is of greater concern is that the
present situation is expected to only worsen. According to a World Bank study, if Indias
economic growth continues at the current pace, the country would not be able to reach the
threshold (per capita income of $8600), when road death rates begin to improve, until
Mortality rate per vehicle are greater when vehicle use increases most rapidly as
is the case in Delhi and other metropolitan cities in India. The city is labeled as a
pedestrian graveyard, where 75 per cent of the people killed on the roads are
pedestrians, cyclists and motor-cyclists (Geetam Tiwari) and only 5 per cent are in cars.
According to the capitals transport department, nearly half of the 1700 people killed on
the citys roads last year were on foot. Buses and trucks account for 60 per cent killed on
the roads. In Delhi, on an average, 6 persons lose their lives in accidents, everyday. This
is in sharp contrast to accident deaths profile in Europe, where half the persons killed are
in cars and majority of the pedestrians who lose their lives are killed by cars. With
millions of victims, and no remorse, road recklessness has become the 'car' related
sickness. Driving and habitual road rage have become virtually inseparable.
Road fatalities, besides causing serious trauma to individuals and families as
personal loss also entails heavy social cost: road traffic accidents cost each country
around I per cent of their GNP each year in the form of material damage, police time,
medical cost, litigation, productivity and production losses. The global cost of traffic
accidents in 1990 was estimated to be US $ 230 billion of which the share of developing
countries was US $ 36 billion. According to a study from IIT, it is quite evident that the
single most important reason for fatal road accidents is the absence of speed norms.
People devote on an average a constant fraction of their daily time to travel-called the
travel time budget (Zahavi Yacob). Even though small groups and individuals vary in
their behavior, on an average, a person spends 1.1 hours a day traveling. Since, people
hold their time for travel constant but also demand more mobility as their income rises,
slower modes of transport like buses are replaced by cars, which typically operate door to
door. The fact is, as speed goes up, the death rate increases. Most fatal accidents occur
when the maximum speed exceeds 50 kmph. Below 50 kmph the death rate falls
dramatically and there are practically no death when it drops below 30.

Motor Vehicle accidents(numbers)in metropolitan cities, India : 1996to1998

















































Hyderabad 2034

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Source: [TERI Energy Data Directory&Yearbook 2001/2002]

Stress is the single most important background reason for several ailments
afflicting the city dwellers all over the world, today. A poorly managed transport system,
instead of performing its role as a public utility and a facility, becomes counter
productive and operates as a social and 'psychological-stresser. Repeated daily hassles
like commuting, if unpleasant, leave People with bruised feelings and irritable which
reflects in their work and personal relationships. In a city stress index, transport is an
important component which determines the overall quality of life.
Even though no systematic attempt has been made to chart a city stress index for
metropolis in India, transport system, at least in Delhi, has more than its share in creating
an atmosphere of anxiety and stress on the roads which we have to cope with. Several
facets of transport such as nonavailability, noise, crowding, rash driving, are some of the
unpleasant experiences of everyday commuting in Delhi. Long waiting time due to
inadequate public transport in Delhi is highly exasperating and frustrating. Noise in the
form of unwanted sound whether in the form of honking of horns or loud music from
the tape-recorder of the bus driver or from the unmanageable fleet of vehicles is linked to
a number of ailments ranging from nervous tension to neurosis. Added to this is visual
pollution Overcrowding on the roads, smoke, undisciplined traffic are known as aesthetic
pollutants which do violence to our sensibilities and leads to morbidity and sickness.
Transport Behavior
By and large, passenger traffic means journeys to and from work as the primary
purpose of trips. The second next important reason for travel is for school and college
travel. Moreover, people also commute for shopping, social and recreational activities.
But the new dimension which is compounding the problem, which is serious enough
already, is the new life style of the emerging prosperous middle class which tries to earn
its status points in every conceivable manner. Mode of transport is perceived to determine
ones placement in a highly stratified society. Fashion in many Asian markets is a
reflection of badge of ones increasing worth, rather than a social statement. Parents pass
on this obsession with status to their children by making sure that they wont be shown
up at school by arriving in a less expensive car. They get everything from parents
because parents want to impress other parents. In Bangkoks Chulaloukom University,
students go by nicknames derived from the type of cars they drive. In Delhi University,
parking has become a serious problem today. One can witness long lines of parked cars
outside colleges during college hours as parking space within the college is not sufficient
to accommodate everybody. The priority of students has shifted from reserving a seat in
the library to finding a safer and decent parking lot in the morning. A decade back a car

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on Delhi road was an object of attraction. But now the roads are crowded by a strong
contingent of cars of all makes and sizes. Already, over a dozen car giants have squeezing
into the Indian market for luxury cars. Two wheelers also have a very promising and
expanding market in which fuel economy, non-availability of dependable transport
system and status play their part. Added to this is the ever-increasing demand for goods
traffic in order to meet the high expectation of a consumers society. One can witness
more and bigger trucks on Delhi roads speeding and ferrying all kinds of goods from
vegetables to luxury motor cars and other consumer durables.
There is considerable evidence to suggest that consumers while selecting their
transport mode, do not face prices which represent the real costs of resources used and
the externalities generated. if prices can be adjusted to reflect the real resource use and
the opportunities forgone, consumers will make adjustments in their trip choices and plan
additional transit investments. Studies regarding choice of transportation modes reveal
that consumers are rational beings and respond to price changes for transport modes as
they do for other goods and services. We find commuters to be more calculating: travel
time, price, and comfort weigh heavily in determining the choice of travel mode and
routes by individuals. It is important to realize that in automobile travel, virtually all time
is spent moving, while public transport involves waiting time for public transit vehicle
time spent walking to bus-stop and back, and time spent transferring from one vehicle to
another. It is evident that commuters dislike waiting and unnecessary delay more than
they dislike time spent in movement. The least explored aspect of choice of transit mode
is comfort: commuters expect a minimum level of comfort in a journey, a threshold,
below which it becomes imperative to look for alternatives, which invariably means
opting for private vehicles, entailing higher private and social cost.

Ecologically sustainable transport policy strategies.

As noted earlier, world demand for vehicles will increase as the pace of
development gathers momentum, and India is no exception. In fact, the modem economy
has come to be characterized as the service economy in which transport forms an
important component. Any policy which seeks to contain vehicular pollution would have
to address the issue with regard to structure and pattern of demand for vehicles and their
background reasons. Transport issues have to be addressed in the context of sustainable
development which implies that all economic activities are managed within the confines
of ecological imperatives. Similarly, ecologically sustainable transport would ensure that,
not only it is not an environmental threat, but also performs its economic and social
functions efficiently. Effective policy requires an integrated approach that does not treat
the problem of transport as an isolated issue, but as an element of larger spectrum
concerning the structure of the society itself
There is a subtle relationship between vehicle ownership, socioeconomic and
demographic attributes of a society. An ecologically sustainable transport policy would
1. immediate steps to arrest pollution by various regulatory and legislative measures to
ensure i.e. engine efficiency, fuel quality, emission control and traffic management.

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2. restructuring society with regard to demand for and supply of transport which is in
tune with the ecological needs.
The current strategy to improve air quality in the developed world is based
essentially on technological solutions, which is a supply-side management option.
However, in the developing economies, there are obvious limits to such a strategy. With
growing traffic congestion and inadequate investment in road development, demand-side
management options are critical and need to be used more vigorously than at present.
1.Transport Demand Oriented Policies: Several measures can be adopted to cut down
demand for transport. Various types of taxes can be levied like fuel tax, road tax, and
parking charges to cut down demand for transport by making it more costlier. It is
commonly known that automobile usage is under-priced to the user because they do not
pay for the externalities like congestion and pollution. One can also think of selective tax
structure to discourage the use of more polluting vehicles. The recent proposal to increase
duty on diesel cars is a welcome step. Regulative measures like mandatory vehicle
inspection, speed limit, higher taxes for bigger cars would also have a dampening effect
on demand for private vehicles. Commuters can also be encouraged to use transport more
efficiently in the form of car pooling. Most of the environmental effects have no price in
the market sense. They are priceless. Conventional economic wisdom alone may not help
redress environmentally damaging behavior. It is for this reason that government
responses, howsoever, sincere may not yield the desired results
Serious efforts should be made to motivate commuters to switch over to public
transport modes. It is argued that a policy motivating two wheelers and car users to
switch over to public transport, if need be, even by making it free, may produce net
efficiency gains for the society as a whole, if the efficiency gains from reduced
automobile usage exceeds the cost of free transit. That may sound a little far fetched but a
strong case for subsidy should be seriously considered.
2. Transport Supply Oriented Policies: comprise a broad set of measures to improve
the quantity and quality of transport system. Expansion of physical infrastructure, like
expansion of road capacity i.e. more and wider roads, flyovers and freeways would
considerably help smooth traffic flow and reduce congestion and pollution. Delhi has
taken up steps in this direction in a big way already. But the fact remains that most Indian
cities cannot afford such solutions. In any case, the continued increase in traffic would
soon overwhelm the new capacity. The imperative, therefore, is to promote and heavily
invest in public transport including buses, trams and high capacity mass transport systems
like a metro. Kolkata and Delhi have already experimented with metro and results are
very encouraging. Metro in Delhi has caught the fancy of commuters so much that it has
encouraged the government to plan expansion in a big way. Delhiites have already started
shifting from private transport mode to public mode: the cars and two wheelers are being
increasingly used to reach only nodes and terminals (metro stations) and not to cover the
entire journey.

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3. Technology oriented measures: like improving engine efficiency, use of eco-friendly

fuels etc. The government has decided that vehicles in national capital region and ten
other mega cities, including Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, would have to conform to
Euro-III emission norms from April 2005. However, it would have been much more
prudent to jump straight from Euro-II to Euro-IV norms. In Delhis case, polluting trucks
and inter state buses also need to be covered by Euro emission norms. Two-wheelers need
to be urgently upgraded to more efficient four stroke engines. The conversion of buses in
Delhi to CNG mode, at the instance of the Supreme Court, has greatly helped improve
ambient air quality in Delhi.
4. Urban Settlement Planning:
But the problem remains because we merely respond to each crisis, as it comes
without a perspective. A lasting and meaningful solution would emerge only when the
issue is taken up in its totality as an integral part of the overall ecological crisis. There
are several very difficult, and in some cases unpopular, choices to be made in dealing
with the vexed problems of traffic pollution and congestion. These choices will be
almost impossible to implement unless they have the understanding and support of the
traveling public. The sustainability of the urban transport system must be considered as a
critical part of the sustainable development in the broader sense to mean a balanced, coevolutionary industrial, social, ecological and economic development.
Many urban planning models have proposed ways to reduce reliance on
automobiles. An integrated land use and transport strategy to cluster homes, accessibility
of jobs, shops and recreational facilities can reduce the need to travel by car
considerably. Other models propose compact city as the ideal, where high densities
facilitates walking or bicycling. Many cities around the world have began observing carfree day every year. In response to a major initiative from the French Ministry of Land
Planning and Environment, 35 French towns organized In town, without my car day on
September 22, 1998. Since then it has become an organized movement motivating 60
European towns to join the Car-Free Cities Network, committed to reduction in traffic
volume by encouraging the use more environmentally friendly modes of transport.
Delhi is an excellent example of mindless traffic planning. Obsessive emphasis
has been put on personal transport, widening roads, constructing flyovers and converting
open spaces into parking lots. Public transport has been neglected, boosting the need and
purchase of cars. Delhi figures most prominently among the worlds most pedestrianhostile environments. As a result, pedestrians and cyclists have been pushed aside. Yet
there is a considerable scope to create car- free zones in Delhi. There is a great potential
for bicycle use in Delhi, since 40 per cent of the journey distance is less than 2.5 km and
more than 57 per cent less than 5 km (Dinesh Mohan). It is an irony that, in spite of
several proposals by town planners and engineers to provide exclusive bicycle tracks, no
action is forthcoming. Apparently, the commitment to develop and implement
technologies which are more environment friendly is lacking.


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Various short, medium and long term steps to ensure air quality have been
identified by the relevant governments and their instrumentalities in different countries,
and some of them have been implemented with varying success. Yet, there has been no
discernible impact on pollution levels in most of the cities in the world. The situation is
particularly grim in the emerging mega-cities in underdeveloped countries. What is,
therefore, important is not to reiterate the well known actions or policy interventions, but
to establish a methodology based on an integrated approach to problem solving. A
strategic approach would be to promote multimodal transport in the movement of both
people and goods. This would necessitate interconnectivity and interoperability of
networks using various kinds of infrastructure, namely road, rail and air. It may require
the construction of new infrastructure with regard to any missing links in the networks,
and in some cases the creation of entirely new networks such as Delhi Metro. Efforts
should also be made to wards limiting the need for physical transport itself, substituting
telecommunications for physical mobility, wherever possible. It may also mean reducing
transport distances to levels that people can travel by bicycle or on foot. Thus, changes in
technology, public policy and individual behavior are required to foster transport system
to be compatible with sustainable environment.
Banister, D; and K Button Transport and Environment and Sustainable Development,
E.& F.N. Spon, London 1993.
Beaton Cited in Reddy, Vehicles Emissions Beyond Technology, The Hindu Survey
of the Environment,2000.
Gwilliam, K.M., and H. Greelings, Research and Technology Strategy to Help Overcome
the Environmental Problems in Relation to Transport, Monitor- SAST, EC. Brussels,
Kenneth Button, Peter Nijkamp and Hugo Priemus, Transport Networks in Europe,
Concepts, Analyses and Policy, Edward Elgar 1998.
Mohan, Dinesh Smokeless Vehicles For A cleaner Future, The Hindu Survey of the
Tiwari, Geetam. Heterogenous Cities, Limits of Old Paradigms in The Hindu Survey of
the Environment,1998.
Zahavi, Yacob., cited in The Past and Future of global mobility by Andreas Schafer and
David Victor, Scientific American, October 1997

V.P.Jain, Reader in Economics(Retd)

School of Open Learning,

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University of Delhi..

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