Pune, February 7, 2022: Punekars are ready to sweat it out by opting to walk, cycle and even hop on to buses to ensure the healthy air quality in the city – provided the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) improves the existing amenities and infrastructure.
These findings are from a pilot survey carried out by a Pune based civil society organisation Parisar that collected submissions from 701 respondents (all residents of Pune) through suggestion cards during the month of January.
The suggestion cards were filled out by citizens who visited the Lungs billboard initiative taken up by Parisar on JM Road recently.
The survey questioned Pune residents about the most essential effort that PMC should do to make the city’s air cleaner. According to the results, 39% of respondents believe that enhancing public transportation in the form of reliable, comfortable and affordable bus service in Pune will help decrease air pollution, while 30% believe that safe and better walking and cycling facilities would help improve air quality, taking the tally to 69%.
Meanwhile, the survey also showed that 31% of citizens chose to ensure waste management through segregation as well as enable recycling within the city to avoid the burning of waste, which severely deteriorates air quality.
Citizens ranked mobility-related initiatives as the most essential in decreasing air pollution, as per the analysis of responses. “Our survey is a good indicator that people are willing to switch to walking cycling and riding a bus but all they want is robust, reliable and people-friendly infrastructure. Even in its present condition, the average ridership of Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd (PMPML) is around 10 lakh daily,” said Shweta Vernekar from Parisar.
Vernekar added that in order to improve the city’s air quality, it is crucial to reduce dependence on private vehicles and thereby reduce their number on roads. “To reduce air pollution, there is a need for a shift in commuters’ mindset to opt for buses instead of their private vehicles for which the authorities need to provide comfortable, convenient and reliable services,” she said.
The survey findings draw focus on the Comprehensive Mobility Plan of Pune (2008), which sets a target that by 2030, public transport, walking, and cycling should account for 90% of Pune’s mobility. However, not enough is being done to achieve this outcome, said Vernekar.
Citizens were also polled, as part of the survey, on what they could do to help the environment? While 59% of respondents stated they would opt for public transportation, walking and cycling whenever feasible to help the city decrease pollution, 25% said they would avoid single-use plastic as it eventually gets burnt and releases harmful pollutants. The remaining 16% of respondents said they would segregate dry and wet waste to ensure mixed waste does not end up at landfills and thereby pollute the city further.
Sharmila Deo from Parisar stated that Pune’s Clean Air Action Plan has several mobility-related actions to improve air quality, but they are either not cohesive or have not been implemented. “The plan speaks of adding electric buses to the PMPML fleet and phasing out old buses but it does not speak of improving the bus service as a whole,” she said adding that even the Pune Cycle Plan, prepared in 2016, is falling way behind in terms of implementation.
Of 701 responses under the survey, 450 were collected physically through suggestion cards while 301 were through an online Google form. Maximum responses (292 or 42%) were received from the age group ranging from 21-50, which regularly commutes across the city, be it walking, cycling or using public transport.
Vehicle emissions are the primary cause of PM2.5 pollution in Pune, as well as numerous other non-attainment cities in Maharashtra. Lack of decent public transport and non-motorised transport facilities has spurred significant growth in the number of vehicles throughout this period. The Emission Inventory Report published by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune in 2021 found that PM2.5 emissions had grown by 60% in the past 7 years.
Gufran Beig, Founder Project Director, System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research under IITM-Pune said that this survey is an important reminder for city planners as well as citizens groups to step up demand for public as well as non-motorised transportation in the city. “Even if 50% of Pune’s present population currently using private vehicles shifts to public transport, a minimum of 20-30% decline in PM2.5 pollution will take place. This has to be combined with adequate transport facilities covering the entire city, properly maintained buses and bus stoppages, and citizens participation through walking and cycling,” said Beig.
Parisar has submitted a copy of the survey along with a list of recommendations to Dr Kunal Khemnar, Additional Commissioner and also plans to submit it to other top bureaucrats as well elected representatives.