Peter Newman is an Australia-based environmental scientist and educator. The lanky Perth-based scientist is the lead author for transport in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
With the IPCC asking countries to reduce green house emissions by 50% by 2050, Newman is pitching for sustainable transport or green transport systems that will have low impact on the environment.
What is sustainable transport?
Global oil production in the world has peaked. Considering the rate at which India is growing, in coming eight years, it can become the third largest importer of oil. The fact is that the world needs to reduce its dependence on oil. For this, we need to use systems that use less oil, emit less carbon and make the environment more livable. Sustainable transport systems are the ones that have a low impact on the environment.
Is India and Mumbai in particular taking the right steps in ensuring the implementation of environment-friendly transport systems?
Actions taken by the country are laudable when it comes to building structures and energy production. For some reason, transport is not seen as a real emitter of greenhouse gas. But it is the fastest growing problem and countries such as China and India are not paying enough heed to it. If Indian cities went down the American path -- filling roads with cars and spreading cities further -- it will not help the city’s economic or environmental health. Mumbai should create a polycentric city where other than the traditional commercial business districts, alternate city centres are created. This growth should take place along the existing train lines.
Is constructing more roads and freeways the answer to Mumbai’s problems?
Focusing on freeways is nothing but a waste of money. A freeway can only carry 2,500 people per hour. A busway carries about 5,000-10,000, a light rail 20,000 while a heavy rail close to 50,000 and is twenty times more efficient than a freeway. Cars coming off a freeway end up getting stuck in congested roads. Though it was fashionable earlier, now the entire world is rejecting freeways.
Is Mumbai being planned in a proper way?
Six per cent of Mumbai’s total population goes to work in a car. 100 per cent of all transport planners use a car to go to work. It has been said that cities are planned by male traffic engineers who inevitably drive. Over 80 per cent of the general public, if interviewed, will want money to be invested in public transport systems. However, most engineers and a few other people believe that bringing more cars on the roads and expanding roads is the answer to the traffic problem.
What is the solution to Mumbai’s transportation problem?
You need polycentric development where you create business centers across the city. This will ensure that you don’t get a huge amount of people moving into a single direction. What you need is a network of transport systems and not a single transport corridor.
How do you limit the number of cars in Mumbai?
Though unpopular and politically difficult to implement, congestion tax is often cited as a probable solution. Most of the countries that have done it are dictatorships such as Singapore. I don’t support the concept. I would prefer that parking space in the congested areas is minimised so that people take public transport to these places.
What advice would you give to Mumbai’s planners?
If you have a plan that will increase car and fuel use, your grandchildren will not thank you for it. Probably your children won’t either, because the effect will show a lot quicker. Cities which facilitate cars are going to be seen as the dinosaurs of the future.