Get off the wheels for a day — to battle pollution

By Nabeel A. Khan, IANS
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

NOIDA - A couple here who runs a news and information portal wants Indians to observe Jan 30 next year as ‘no driving day’.

On that day, Ranjan Kaplish and Padma Pegu expect people to give up their sedentary habits and either walk or cycle down to nearby destinations and use public transport to reach faraway places.

This, they say, will help preserve precious fuel and conserve the environment.

The pair believes that this one small step taken by the people would go a long way in facilitating “societal transformation” necessary for sustainable development.

According to the founders of the initiative, within a week of their call, at least 100 people from all over the country have committed themselves to the cause on their website CauseBecause (

To register, one has to go to the website and press the ‘I commit’ button, and share his/her name, email ID and vehicle number (the last one is optional).

According to Ranjan and Padma, the initiative is picking up not just on their website but on social media platforms as well.

For instance, at least 420 people on Twitter and 230 on Facebook are following the developments at CauseBecause.

The idea struck the couple running a portal on ‘development and sustainability’ when the two were tossing ideas on how to evolve a concept that would involve the people at large.

Although last year’s UN summit in Copenhagen that discussed climate change collapsed, many lesser-informed people around the world realised the significance of environment conservation and the harm of global warming.

Similar concepts have seen a success in South Korea, Malaysia and China, but participation was not voluntary in those countries, as those were government-enforced initiatives.

In India it is estimated that 70 percent of air pollution is caused by vehicles. Exhaust from vehicles has risen eight-fold over levels 20 years ago.

The green enthusiasts believe that such steps by civil society can make a difference.

In November 2009, India revised its national ambient air quality standards and made them equivalent to the European level, exceeding even the standard prevalent in the US.

Nevertheless, air quality has been worsening in big cities like Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai.

Ranjan Kaplish, who monitors his website closely, says: “If a considerable number of people commit, the day will also test the efficiency of the public transport system.”

He says the campaign at present is being spread via word of mouth.

“We are confident that as Jan 30 approaches, we’ll be able to see near about 50,000 people committing to keep their vehicles off road,” he says.

The comments made by individuals on the campaign are encouraging.

Meghna from Delhi says: “It’s the least I can contribute as a citizen of this country.” Dasmesh Singh, Chandigarh, says: “It will be great to see roads with people either cycling or walking… though that seems like a dream.”

(Nabeel A. Khan can be contacted at

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