The COVID-19 pandemic had deeply impacted public transport in India that was already in distress
Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) unveiled a new analysis to achieve clean air goals on September 7, 2020, the first International Day of Clean Air for blue skies.
The 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly had asked for this day to be observed on December 19, 2019, in order to build awareness on clean air for health, productivity, economy and environment at all levels – individual, community, corporate and government.
CSE called for a ‘green’ recovery strategy to help maintain and even exceed the level of ambition under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) – about 20-30 per cent reduction in particulate pollution in non-attainment cities by 2024.
Its analysis presents examples from two critical next generation strategies in the transportation sector – bus transport and electrification of vehicular fleet – to underscore the importance of accelerated roadmap for greening of mobility infrastructure and zero emissions transition in the automotive sector.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply affected public transport. A revival plan is needed to reduce transport sector emissions. All clean air action plans have included bus transport strategy to cut transport sector emissions. But the public transport systems have nearly collapsed in cities,” a statement by CSE noted.
At least 81 per cent of state bus operators have reported no ridership at all during the lockdown phases, while others have reported 90 per cent reduction in ridership from the pre-COVID level, the statement said, citing a survey conducted by the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) of 14 State Road Transport Undertakings (SRTUs).
“Ridership of SRTUs in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Delhi and Hubli-Dharwad Bus Rapid Transit System (HD-BRTS) are still below 90 per cent. Recovery of ridership is expected to be slow due to fear of contagion. A CSE survey of middle to high income groups in Delhi and NCR has shown that preference for public transport is likely to reduce by 27 per cent within the six months of the lockdown,” the statement added.
Additional burden of safety protocols and social distancing requirements had added to the cost of operation, CSE said.
“Clean air action plans require bus revival strategy. This has serious implications at a time when India needs urgent scaling up of clean transportation systems to meet clean air goals. Already, there is a huge deficit in bus transport,” its statement noted.
Currently, urban India has 48,000 buses, but according to an estimate by GIZ, based on the guidelines of the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), 188,500 buses are needed to properly fulfil consumer demand. The pandemic is cutting down the existing capacity by more than half.
CSE called for build ambition for zero emission targets by promoting electric vehicles, tightening fuel efficiency standards to require electric vehicle transition, linking scrappage policy with electric vehicle transition and the need for state governments to set milestones to implement electric vehicle policy.
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