Monday, June 27, 2022

SwitchON Foundation and Calcutta Tram Users Association (CTUA) celebrate World Environment Day


Marking the occasion of World Environment Day, SwitchON Foundation along with Calcutta Tram Users Association (CTUA) and multiple cycle groups organized an event where hundreds of bicyclists, school students, volunteers and Sustainable Mobility enthusiasts from across Kolkata gathered with Posters and Banners at the Esplanade Tram Depot to celebrate the Day in Kolkata, highlighting the need to live sustainably in harmony with nature by bringing transformative changes – through policies and our choices – towards cleaner, greener lifestyles and mobility ideas.

Over 200 Cyclists across Kolkata were joined by Children from various schools of Kolkata participating in the event performed colorful cultural activities and took a Heritage Tram Ride from Esplanade to Gariahat tram depot joined by eminent personalities like Rajanvir Singh Kapur, IAS, MD, West Bengal Transport Corporation Limited (WBTC); Prof Bhargab Maitra, IIT Kharagpur and representatives of Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany,  Alliance Française du Bengale, Max Muller Bhawan. This year also marks the 150th anniversary of the Kolkata Heritage Trams, once referred to as the lifeline of Kolkata.

Speaking at the event, Rajanvir Singh Kapur, who flagged of the cyclists and tram ride said, “We are transforming the transport system in Kolkata. We have trams which are electric and eco-friendly, very soon we will have electric ferries. Transport forms a huge part of the carbon footprint of a city. Lot of us have Asthma and respiratory issues in the city. I can assure you the government is working in the right direction. Enjoy your cycling, enjoy your trams, this is your city and we are there to support you.”

Speaking on the occasion, Vinay Jaju, MD SwitchON Foundation said, “Vehicles are the biggest cause of pollution in Kolkata, this pollution is choking our children and elderly. We need to embrace clean and people-friendly ways to commute like cycle and trams. Air Pollution & Climate change is adversely impacting us all. Time for action is now. We all, people, businesses, and the government need to come together to preserve and protect planet earth.” 

Transport emissions have been the biggest source of global warming and one of the biggest sources of air pollution in the city, however the good news is that by altering our behavior, we can choose modes of transport that emit less greenhouse gasses and are clean modes of transport.  More so, as Kolkata is perhaps the only city in India besides Mumbai which has been marked globally as a city most likely to face serious climate-related disaster. Despite this, the approach of the current administration has been not much in favour of promoting cycling and other cleaner modes of transport like Trams which has the potential to make Bengal a Carbon Neutral State by 2030.

CTUA (Calcutta Tram Users Association) which has been advocating for trams and SwitchON Foundation and the cycle group likes 2 Wheels Kolkata Kolkata Cycle Samaj, BYCS, CYCLOLOG and other cycle groups which have been advocating for cycle across Kolkata all came together on this auspicious day.

“Even after concrete evidence of the increasing vulnerability of Kolkata to climate change, we are putting more private cars on the road. It is either abolishing environment-friendly transport systems or increasing carbon emissions in the name of modernisation,” said one of the volunteer advocating for clean sustainable mobility in the city. 

Speaking during the occasion, CTUA spokesperson Mahadeb Shi said, “What is needed is investment in modernisation of tramways by changing the old coaches, making them fast moving and restoring the original network of tram lines and ensuring consistent.”

Tram system is present in around 450 cities in the world, with over 50 new locations adding Trams to their transport system, mostly in China and the US. Trams are beneficial for the environment and wherever they are present, the Trams have become a vital part of the city.

In view of the efforts done towards clean air, SwitchON Foundation recently conducted a perception study with young respondents from West Bengal who had been a part of various environment themed events organized on significant days by SwitchON Foundation.

The study was carried out through a survey with 3244 respondents. Some interesting findings emerged were-

Main causes of air pollution as perceived by youth in West Bengal:

  1. 30% of respondents perceived Excess Motor Vehicles to be the most important contributor of air pollution in West Bengal.
  2. 23% assigned second place to Industries.
  3. 18% of respondents felt Biomass Burning to be the third most factor contributing to air pollution. 

Contributors to air pollution in West Bengal.

  1. The top three contributors to air pollution were motor vehicles, industry and biomass burning as perceived by youth and middle aged groups in West Bengal.

Health impacts faced respondents in West Bengal:

  1. 85% respondents felt that air pollution is causing a health threat to them, the percentage of people not sure was 10% whereas a mere 5% said it is not going to pose any threat to them.
  2. Among the possible health impacts due to air pollution perceived by people the equally voted ailments at 18% were Cancer, Bronchitis, Shortness of breath and Asthma.

Solutions from the respondents to curb air pollution in West Bengal.

  1. 39% of respondents felt supporting environment education in schools and colleges can be a good solution. 
  2. 25% believed promoting renewable energy sources can be an answer to solve the issue.

Some of the recommendations by SwitchON for effectively controlling pollution levels are-

  • Strong enforcement of government laws and regulations, implementation of the NCAP.
  • Promote cycling and build safe infrastructure for the cyclists.
  • Setting up air pollution monitoring stations in city to monitor the ambient air quality.
  • Scale up adoption of trams, electric vehicles, e-bikes etc.
  • Increase public awareness on air pollution. 
  • Engage with students in schools & colleges to change and an integral part of the curriculum. 

Speaking at the event one volunteer said, “Reduce – Recycle – Reuse mantra can help optimize our carbon footprints. Let’s resolve to do our part for our planet – mother earth, on this Environment Day and consciously choose a path of sustainable development.”

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