If 2019 was about policies, let 2020 be about delivery
Policymaking was the crucial first step in addressing pressing concerns in Delhi. As we move into a new a decade, the real test, however, lies in the enforcement of these schemes.Updated: Jan 06, 2020 16:15 IST
As Delhi continued to breathe foul air, the city’s traffic crawled and pedestrians struggled for access, our policymakers in 2019 took a big step forward to formulate plans that can reduce the problems of air pollution, traffic congestion and road space distribution.
The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) formulated the walkability policy to make the city more pedestrian friendly. The Delhi government announced redesigning of nine arterial roads to make them navigable for all road users, particularly those on foot and bicycles. The parking policy to streamline existing slots for optimal use and introduce dynamic pricing mechanism for demand-side management got a legal sanction.
Last month, a policy to promote electric vehicles through subsidies and tax exemptions was also cleared by the Delhi cabinet and the government hopes to notify it soon. All these plans are intrinsically linked and if enforced in coordination, they could help Delhi fight air pollution and reclaim mobility.
One of the biggest sources of air pollution is emissions from vehicles, and Delhi already has a fleet of over 11 million. The most polluting of these are the older two-wheelers, which still run on BS-III engines and are used by much of the city’s working class for their daily commute. The new e-vehicle (EV) policy rightly targets this segment, offering subsidies on the purchase of new e-scooters and incentives on scrapping the older ones.
Electric vehicles have zero tailpipe emissions and can reduce noxious gases and particulate matter in the air. Apart from two-wheelers, the policy’s focus on electric auto-rickshaws, taxis and freight vehicles would be a big push to e-mobility. The real success of this initiative will, however, depend on how quickly the government rolls out 1,300 electric buses it promised to introduce, in the coming years.
The Delhi government is targeting to register at least 500,000 electric vehicles in the next five years. The bigger challenge will be to keep these vehicles running. The policy commits to the creation of 250 public charging and battery swapping stations within a year and promotes home and work space-based charging. For this, the government will have to ensure that the existing power lines are prepared to pull the additional weight and, eventually, the electricity to run these vehicles comes from renewable sources.
Conventional or electric, all vehicles require parking space. The EV policy stipulates that at least 20% of all new home and office parking slots will be reserved for electric vehicles.
The Delhi parking policy also directs the municipalities to demarcate space in each parking facility for installing EV charging and battery swapping stations, which can be used 24x7.
This will require efficient parking management, which Delhi is presently missing in much of the city. Parking facilities pack in more than their capacity. Vehicles are parked just about anywhere on the streets, pavements or any vacant space. In residential neighbourhoods, public land is claimed for parking as a matter of right.
Even though the government did not show the political will to charge parking fees in residential areas, the provisions in the parking policy to ensure vehicles are parked in demarcated space and those on footpaths are towed away could help in democratising road space. Pedestrians and cyclists, who have a zero carbon footprint, are a majority in the city. Still, it is motorised vehicle users who hog all the road space.
A dynamic pricing mechanism such as peak and non-peak fees with progressive jump in rates per additional hour has to be enforced under the new parking policy. The new rules ask municipalities to utilise the parking revenue to improve footpaths, non-motor vehicle lanes, public amenities and parking facilities.
A similar upgrade is also provisioned in the DDA’s policy for ‘enhancing walkability’ in the national Capital. Starting with a walkability audit of pedestrian facilities on a selected stretches, it plans for creating area specific ‘walk plan’, build barrier-free footpaths, safe at-grade crossings, pedestrian bridges and subways, install pelican crossings, and set up a centralised city-wide monitoring system, and a ‘walk Delhi’ coordination and monitoring committee.
Policymaking was the crucial first step in addressing these pressing concerns. The real test, however, lies in the enforcement of these schemes. As we move into a new decade, we hope the authorities show urgency in delivering these promises. Delhi needs immediate resuscitation.