The number of registered vehicles in and around Chennai as on April 1, 2010 was 26,58,083, within a span of 5 months an increase of 5 lakhs vehicles were recorded and as on September 1, 2010 the number stood at 31,97,575.
That was the essence of news item giving us the facts - now some perspectives on these facts - which were not published:
It is estimated that over 40,00,000 vehicles ply in Chennai city as on today (with an estimated 15 lakh 4+ wheelers) - of these about 15,000 are city buses, 1.5 lakh vehicles are passenger auto rickshaws - WHO IS REALLY CHOCKING THE ROAD - a public vehicle or the private one ?? - Just one in every 15 vehicles on the road is an auto rickshaw and one in every 25 vehicle is a bus - certainly they are not the ones causing a traffic jam.
Except a handful none of the US /Europe cities have a vehicle population more than one million - in each of our 6 metros we have four million plus.
What these private vehicles do ??
- 1. They permanently occupy (consuming real-estate) a whopping 60 million sq.feet of space (either on the roads or parking places) - if this space is calculated as paddy fields - 800 tons of rice can be grown on the land per year that is being used to park all these 4 wheelers alone
2. On an average day they occupy 5 million sq.feet of space on the road (8% vehicles on road on an average working day - peak hours or Saturday is even worse) - more cars means more roads - no space for us to live and the civic administration spends money and time only on constructing roads
3. This huge population of vehicles consume a lot of fuel which is a different story by itself - BUT THE IMPORTANT FACT is that 600 million liters of water per month is used just for washing these vehicles alone - (100 lts of water per wash - one washing @ 3 buckets of water per vehicle in a week) - this much of water would otherwise be useful for about 5,00,000 people in the City - about 8 lakh people in Chennai are constantly under "water-stress"
4. Such high water consumption for washing vehicles itself amounts to so much energy waste with respect to - pumping water up from deep-wells etc. and electricity is produced with Coal /Nuclear plant leading to pollution and environmental problems - a vicious cycle
5. About the amount of fuel the we need to import - BETTER NOT TO TALK ABOUT IT (just because we equate everything to money this appears trivial - That fact is that even if the petrol price is Rs.300 a liter we would still buy and use it - just like a drunkard complaining of high liquor prices and still drinking)
6. About Pollution from these vehicles - BEST NOT TO TALK ABOUT IT - (One in 4 people in the city is suffering from some form of respiratory problem throughout the year - 90% of the cause points to vehicular pollution)
Why we are here ??
Multiple factors led to this state that we are in right now - Car from being a luxury now considered to be a necessity - it is truly a necessity ? if so, how big a car and with how much fuel efficiency, how many cars required per family (nowadays many households own 2 cars) - all these vital questions are forgotten
What we can do (rather what I do)
Using office bus /van or public transport for office commute; As much as possible we can share our 4/2 wheelers with others; Can avoid using car for long city drives - public transport is faster, cheaper and less tiresome; Can avoid taking car for a single person; Having a fixed monthly budget for fuel and sticking to it; Walking or cycling for short distance (1-2 km) travel; etc.
Already Chennai city roads are chocked not because of cars are plying simply because of parking on the road sides as no space left to park anywhere in city - the purpose of having a car itself defeats that very purpose - what an irony
The idea propagated by car companies and advertisers - that each one of us must own a car - is western ideal - which is not suitable for India and our huge population and certainly not sustainable - the east Asian model is most appropriate for India.
Where we failed - is it due to our myopic vision in the past - instead of demanding (I repeat demanding) public transport we demanded low car prices, loans and roads from Govt. - one can still notice that village folks do demand public transport to their village /locality
The situation if not worse, is equally bad in 10 other cities across India - and about 20 other cities are trying to catchup to this state of stalemate
Let us be Mindful that in another 5-10 years there will only be space for cars to parked in the city and not for people to live - those who can afford will convert whatever open space left in the city into road or parking space.
Car is a dream for another 100 million households in India - Is it wrong ?? - who implanted this idea into their mind - who to blame ?? - how can one convince that person who worked hard and saved to have a car all along - who can deprive his/her right to his own 4 wheeler - yet we all would collectively suffer due to consequences as Car /private vehicle population increases - isn't this a stalemate.
I'm writing this not because I don't have a car (I used to have one few years back - thus I'm also equally responsible) simply because I look forward to a social awakening to demand public transportation and self transformation towards simplicity