It is a bright sunny morning. Akash felt happy getting out of bed. He liked this time of the year the most. Between October and December, is the festival season in India. Autumn arrives with nippy nights and dewy mornings. Rain washes away dust from the atmosphere. Sun shines bright in clear blue sky. Sadly for Akash, he can only enjoy this beautiful morning from behind his closed window. Akash cannot inhale fresh air outside because his respiratory system is sensitive to particulate matter in outside air.
Most Indian cities, Delhi included, suffer from poor air quality index. Pollution is a year around but problem becomes more acute in autumn and winter months. Change in airflow makes forces pollutants to settle at lower level of atmosphere, instead of being blown away, thus making the city a gas chamber. There are many factors that contribute towards air pollution in Indian cities. Of these, vehicular emission contributes around 30% of total air pollution in Delhi. Almost 90 – 95% of vehicular exhaust consists of particles of size 2.5 micron (PM2.5) which can go deep inside respiratory tract and create a variety of problems; which are manifested as itchy and watery eyes, sore throat, runny nose, cough, shortness of breath and in severe cases breathing difficulty.
This morning while looking outside, Akash though what if government promoted the use of electric vehicles. The move may have the following advantages :
- Unlike fossil fuel powered vehicles, electric automobiles will be emission free.
- As more and more people are investing in personal vehicles, vehicular pollution is likely to increase in Indian cities in coming year.
- Introduction of electrical vehicle will remove one of the major source of environmental pollution in cities;
- Electric vehicles will likely improve quality of life for people with respiratory problem.
- Government may save precious foreign exchange spent on importing crude oil from abroad.
Changing from petrol / diesel driven car to electric vehicle may have initial problems. There will be no infrastructure for recharging battery and availability of spare battery on highways and smaller towns. Thus electric vehicles may remain restricted to big metro cities. To overcome this problem, government must look at hybrid cars. A hybrid car works on electricity and gasoline. At the present time, hybrid cars are expensive and beyond the reach of average citizens. Government should give subsidy to manufacturer of hybrid car for ten years and incentivise purchase of these cares. Meanwhile, government should work towards developing necessary infrastructure like charging stations. Government must also incentivise research on creation of batteries that are smaller, can be charged faster, and that retain charge longer.
It should be remembered that introducing of electrically driven bus service is one key component of making people shed their dependence of personal vehicles. If all 1.2 billion plus Indians decide to invest in cars, albeit electric, we may run out of parking space and driving lane. Government must encourage use of public transport by making people use bus and metro rail more often. For this to happen, public transport service has to be more frequent, efficient, less crowded and user friendly.
Controlling vehicular pollution is only one aspect of addressing environmental problem. Government must work towards formation of biogas from municipal waste and biomass waste. Use biogas for generation of electricity and cooking purpose. Government must encourage research, development and entrepreneurship in this area too. Biogas has potential to further lower governments energy import bill and improving the quality of air we breathe.