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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 1587

Modern Super highways eliminate people and only vehicle oriented

By Quintus Perera – Asian Tribune
Colombo, 18 July, (

Large scale development projects appear to be least people oriented and may be mooted on vested interests of investors and politicians. No people oriented as equity of benefits, no shifting down to the lowest rung of the people and are not reflected in the cost of living and living condition.

Society and community service based organizations are now increasingly concerned of the political down-play of the people how the benefits by the vested interest parties.

Such matters as above have cropped up at a half day long media briefing conducted by the News Delhi based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and TVE (Television for Education and Environment) Asia Pacific based in Colombo, organized jointly ‘On the Challenges of Air Quality and Mobility Management in South Asian Cities.

The briefing also took cognizance of the alarming magnitude of the air pollution and public health, languishing vehicle technology and mobility crisis in South Asian cities. The sum total of the whole briefing indicated that ‘by breathing the poisonous fumes emitted by vehicles an alarming number of people die from respiratory ailments, specially small children while the people who are responsible ignore the mortal issues giving effect to the saying “Caravan moves while dogs bark” – only development (Business) – no people.

The briefing cautioned that the ignorance of those mandated and responsible agencies not acting results in people dying.

In an hour long revelation Ms Anumita Roychowdhury, Executive Director – Research and Advocacy, CSE indicated how these deaths occur, how vehicle centred road construction takes out the people from the road and the magnitude of air pollution in comparative terms in Delhi and Colombo.

She said that the development of roads are car centered, specially motor cars and in planning itself, the environmentally unique modes of transport like pedestrians, bicycle rickshaws, bullock carts and other such modes are ignored.

She said that cars, motorcycles and three-wheelers are the cause of high emission of fumes considering the large numbers and causes heavy traffic congestions. The solution to this problem is to improved public transport (Bus). Provide for pedestrians, bicycles, bullock carts and other such forms that do not pollute the air.

She said that making the different vehicles using different lanes such as buses one lane, cars one lane, bicycles one lane, motorcycles one lane, three-wheelers one lane and unobstructed pavements for pedestrians to walk.

Suggestions were prompted as to whether electrically operated trams to be introduced which are fume free.

Prof O A Ileperuma, University of Peradeniya who spoke on ‘Challenges of understanding and combating air pollution in Sri Lanka said at the scale at which air is polluted he said that the time is not far way for people to carry their clean air like they carry water bottles.

He said that in Sri Lanka media is not that strong like in India and also the judiciary. He also said that Sri Lanka is unfortunate that it does not have such organizations as CSE India where they have gone to Supreme Court on issues and in one case the Indian Supreme Court ordered action within two weeks, whereas such actions are rare in Sri Lanka – indicating the importance of ‘Public Interest Litigation’ in Sri Lanka, which is wide spread in India.

Prof Illeperuma pointed out that Indian Supreme Court even appoint expert committees to advice the Court on various issues.

He lashed out at authorities as they appear to be not concerned of real issues in Kandy and the closure of Dalada Weedhiya adds up to air pollution as if this road is opened much traffic loads from other roads could be taken in as this is a main road in Kandy. He said road closures also contribute heavily to traffic congestion.

He said that the information provided by some state agencies would not show the real picture of the air pollution in the country. In the first instance air quality measuring apparatus fixed at the Fort Railway Station is out of commission and the location do not allow a clear picture of the actual pollution levels in the City. He said that the apparatus is close to the sea and sea breeze dilutes the air pollution. But elsewhere in Colombo the situation is quite different.

Kandy is worse as the City is located in a valley surrounded by mountains. He said that authorities gives a wrong picture of the situation by taking air-quality measurements during rainy days as rainy days air-quality improves. This situation would be due Central Environmental Authority is under political pressure.

He said that in Sri Lanka 45% of patients admitted to leading hospital are with respiratory disorders. He said that children are more vulnerable due to high frequency of take food and water. He suggested that primary schools should be moved out of the cities if possible and should have to be away from main roads.

Nalaka Gunawardene, Director/CEO, TVE Asia Pacific opened the briefing explaining the event followed by Introduction to CSE’s engagement with the media in South Asia by Souparno Banerjee, Programme Director, Media Resource Centre, CSE.

Followed by the two presentations a panel discussion ensured. The panelists were D S Jayaweera, Director General, Ministry of Finance; Ms Priyanth Fernando, Executive Director, Centre for Poverty Analysis; Dr T L Gunaruwan, Senior Lecturer, University of Colombo (former Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and General Manager of Railways) ; Dr Thusitha Sugathapala, Clean Air, Sri Lanka; Anura Jayatilake, Air Resource Management Centre (AirMAC) Ministry of Environment and the two frontline speakers.

Dr Gunariwan in his remarks said that it is a pity that railway transport is not included when considering the transport system as a whole and also considering how it could lessen air pollution compared to road transport. Trains could carry large numbers with less air pollution. By improving train service would ease the road congestion immensely. The conditions could be further improved if the trains could be electrified and if the single railway tracks could be turned into double tracks.

He said that container traffic has been a major cause of traffic congestion on roads and also pollute the air. He said that if the containerized goods could be transported through trains major traffic load could be taken off from the roads.

Therefore putting the train services to take in the road users effectively, would become a great revolution to transport service in the country and also to the air pollution.

A point in issue is in Kandy as there are encroachers on the railway land and they have to initiate legal action and since 2007 the Railway Dept is involved in litigation with these encroachers and is waiting till the litigation ends.

Ms Fernando who actually represented the non-air polluters as poor people do not use transport but walk, said that Colombo is not suited for schooling and said that her perception is people centered and thus more investment should be on public transport (bus) which is less polluting in comparative terms and is also convenient.
She said that more attention should be paid to pedestrians as poor people walk and no pollution is involved in walking.

- Asian Tribune -

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