CSE welcomes Delhi High Court Judgment on Delhi BRT
Visionary judgment from the Delhi High Court upholds the principle of sustainable mobility
Questions increased dependence on personal vehicles and disproportionately high government investments in car centric infrastructure
New Delhi October 18, 2012: The Centre for Science and Environment(CSE) welcomes the judgment from the division bench of Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Manmohan Singh of Delhi Court today in the public interest litigation on Delhi bus rapid transit (BRT) system. The judgment has dismissed the writ petition without any specific order but highlights the mobility crisis and upholds the guiding principles for sustainable transportation.
“This judgment while putting the 5.8 km BRT stretch in perspective sets the vision for transportation management in the city. This powerful message has come at this crucial time when Delhi has to decide its future mobility options to escape the pollution and congestion nightmare.” says Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director and in charge of air pollution and transportation programme at CSE.
The judgment has also highlighted the remedial measures suggested by the Government Counsel KTS Tulsi that includes construction of parallel roads to bypass the traffic from Saket. The government is expected to look into the specific problem at Chirag Delhi crossing and take remedial measures.
The judgment makes strong observations on the current mobility crisis and highlights the following concerns:
Need second generation action
The judgment underscores that the period between 1998 – 2003 has witnessed an active intervention by the Supreme Court in response to Public Interest Litigations. The choking haze of air pollution and its impact on public health, brought to the notice of the Supreme Court, resulted in a spate of directives.
But thereafter the city, gradually and slowly, started losing out … air pollution levels started rising again. It is apparent that a second generation policy action is warranted.
Limit to growth of personal vehicles
The Judgment makes note of the Delhi Master Plan 2021, which states that there has been a phenomenal increase in vehicles and traffic in Delhi. Despite measures taken by way of increasing the length of the road network through widening, construction of flyovers/grade separators and Metro, traffic congestion continues to increase unabatedly.
If the current trend continues, by the year 2021 car ridership would increase by 106% and bus ridership would increased by only 28%.
Sustainability demands increased public transport ridership
The judgment states, that two cars transport only three persons as against 60 to 70 persons in a bus during peak hours and around 40 persons during non-peak hours. A car commences and terminates its journey with the same 1.5 persons. But a bus would drop and pick up many persons en-route. The number of persons transported along the route would be as high as up to 200.
The RITES survey of 2008, show that in prominent arterial roads such as Swaran Jayanti Marg in Dhaula Kuan, Rao Tula Ram Marg, Nelson Mandela Marg, Olfo Palame Marg and Outer Ring Road, 70% traffic volume is cars which carry only around 18% of the total people transported. The 10% traffic volume on these roads consists of buses that transport about 60% of the total people. This shows, that unless traffic volume of cars is reduced, “one would see nothing but misery on the streets of Delhi.”
The Ring road is designed to carry peak hour traffic of 75,000 passenger car units. Today it carries 1,60,000 passenger car units during peak traffic hour. If the current trend continues the figure would increase to 4,00,000 by the year 2020 and as against the current 6 lanes on Ring road it would require at least 18 lanes. Where would the land come from?
BRT has benefits
Report submitted by the Central Road research Institute (CRRI) to the Delhi High Court shows evidence that before BRT corridor was put into place and thereafter, bus users increased by 7%.
Since 50% people are transported in buses, a dedicated lane for BRT is justified. The journey time for cars would continue to increase even if there is no BRT because the number of cars and two-wheelers on Delhi roads is increasing. Unless BRT is accepted by the citizens of Delhi, the journey time for cars to cover the necessary distance would continue to increase.
A BRT corridor would require the buses to ply on the central median side because of the right turns which the buses have to take at the crossings and the signaling put in place.
Disproportionately high investments on roads when majority uses public transport
Under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), the grant by the Central Government through the Ministry of Urban Development to Delhi has been utilized: 83% for expansion of roads and construction of flyovers, 15% on parking projects and only 2% on other transport projects. What does it reveal?
“Cars, cars and cars and nothing else. It could well be argued that when more than 50% of the road passengers travel by buses it would be illogical and irrational to spend 98% of the grants under JNNURM with the targeted beneficiary being cars” states the judgment.
Court upholds government policy
The judgment says, if the government policy is not offending any constitutional principle like the Article 14, the Court cannot and should not out-step its limits and tinker with the policy decision of the executive functionary of the state, says the judgment.
The Master Plan for Delhi embodies the principles recognized by National Urban Transport Policy 2006, which recognizes that personal vehicles have overwhelmed the road space in urbanized areas.
It is the principal purpose of a Government to promote the interest of the general public rather than to distribute public goods to restrictive private benefit.
The issue is large: one of urban transport policy. A policy has to be evolved where people voluntarily switch over to public transport.
The judgment is thus conclusive on BRT. It says that keeping in view the fact that road space cannot be augmented, there is no option other than to put into place a good public transport system, with BRT being an integral part thereof; for only then would the citizen of Delhi shift to public transport.
The bench makes the incisive observation that, “A developed country is not one where the poor own cars. It is one where the rich use public transport.”
This judgment has put to rest the acrimonious debate on people vs vehicles in the city. “It is very clear, Delhi can avoid the looming pollution and congestion disaster only if its transport planning hinge on sustainability, equity, and people centric approach” says Roychowdhury.
Air pollution is the fifth largest killer and seventh biggest illness burden in India as estimated by the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) report. The speed at which urban air pollution is growing across our cities is alarming. Severe particulate pollution and newer pollutants like nitrogen oxides, ozone and air toxics are worsening the public health challenge. Vehicles are a special challenge as these are the fastest growing sources of air pollution.