Grassroots forum: Orientation Workshop on Solutions to pollution and mobility crisis for liveable cities

CSE organised a three-day orientation workshop on Solutions to pollution and mobility crisis for liveable cities for the grassroot actors/groups during August 30 – September 1, 2012 at New Delhi. The objective of this forum was to bring together a select group of grassroot actors/groups from selected cities and towns to learn and share the experiences and action to combat pollution, and congestion to make our cities more livable.

Many cities have already begun to develop clean air and transportation action plans to achieve clean air and sustainable mobility. Real action has also begun in some spheres in some cities and towns. Grassroot groups in some cities and towns have initiated work on clean air and mobility issues to bring about change in their respective cities. It is very important to understand their barriers and potential and orient the new groups to be able to strengthen the roadmap and built the support for future action in our cities.

Grassroot actors/groups from 13 states of India participated in the forum along with South Asia participation from Dhaka, Bangladesh. They represented 15 selected cities and towns of India and Dhaka. There was representation from the grassroot groups which are working on clean air and transportation issues in their respective cities and towns and also from other groups which are at present working on environmental issues and are keen to initiate and pursue their work on clean air and mobility issues. The represented groups are Tarumitra, Patna; Kanpur Parivartan Forum, Kanpur; Nagrik Chetna Manch, Pune; Work for Better Bangladesh, Dhaka; Centre for Rural Development, Guwahati; ARPAN Society, Agartala; Manipur Cycle Club, Imphal; Sahasi Padyatri and Welfare Organization for Road Safety and Prevention of Road Accidents, Mumbai; Kuhad Trust, Jaipur; DICE Foundation, Kohima; Matsya Mewat Shiksha Evam Vikas Sansthan, Alwar; Sudha Akhil Bhartiya Viklang Kalyan Sansthan, Dehradun; Paryavaran Mitra, Ahmedabad; Paryavarniya Vikas Kendra, Rajkot; Rashtriya Janhit Vikas Sansthan, Dehradun; Evangelical Social Action Forum, Trissur based organisation and Sudha Sansthan, Ajmer.

Participating grassroot actors/groups  

Founder Member and Director
Tarumitra, Patna

Tarumitra is an organization started by the high school level students in Patna in 1988. This student movement started nearly 22 years back to protect and promote a healthy environment. It has now spread to hundreds of high schools and colleges all over India. It is an organization of over 2 lakh students. It networks in over 2000 high schools and colleges in 23 states. Tarumitra’s mission is to promote ecological sensitivity that is how you become sensitive to earth. Students at Tarumitra are involved with multitude of activities.

They once protested against increasing pollution in the city and demanded fresh air. As Patna is a low lying city, the entire city used to get covered by dust due to transportation of sand by vehicles from the river bank. Students took action, tried to clean but could not manage. They then approached the High Court. Students formed a human chain demanding fresh air from the increasing number of vehicles in the city. This resulted in mobilization of a lot of people.  The court finally pulled up the administration saying how the city can allow overloaded. Students monitored and soon dust was no longer seen in the city.

Students also campaigned for repair of roads in the city. There has been improvement in the condition of roads during the last three years. Tarumitra students approached the High Court and filed a PIL highlighting the condition of roads in their city. They protested against the condition of roads and played badminton match in the middle of the highway. As a result, the minister visited the area and soon after the highway was repaired. Students have started to campaign against bad roads and have started to repair roads in Jharkhand. This becomes a matter of great concern when the students come and repair the roads.

The group has been actively involved in raising awareness on the vehicular pollution issue. Tarumitra is authorized by the government to issue PUC certificates. It has been done for the past three years. The students also put pressure on their parents to go for PUC test. So far 12,000 vehicles have been checked. But PUC testing is a sham and anybody can get a PUC certificate.

Tarumitra was made a part of the liaison body of all the departments as directed by the High Court which is now a defunct body. The group will revisit the High Court on this body.

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Member, Management Committee,
Nagrik Chetna Manch, Pune

Nagrik Chetna Manchis a Pune based organization which came into existence on August 15, 1991. TheManchseeks issue-based support from the media and the public and networks with other like-minded NGOs to lend force to issues that theManchtakes up. The objective of the group is to act as a pressure group to control the wasteful expenditure and safeguard national interest.

The group has taken part in formulating CDPs and to endeavor for a comprehensive mobility plan for the Pune city. It has played a proactive role in finalising the note on Comprehensive Transport Policy for Pune Metropolitan Region. It is represented on the Traffic Advisory Committee of Pune Police and is also part of a committee formed by the PMC for preparing a comprehensive mobility plan for PMR. The Manch has actively taken up with the PMC on the issue of encroachments on front margins, footpaths and pavements. They are also taking issue to assist municipal and other authorities in combating vehicular pollution, and to give a momentum for greening of Pune.

The group conducts programmes and workshops once in a month or two months. A Peoples Commission of Enquiry has been set up with Justice B B Sawant, retired Supreme Court judge regarding encroachments, unauthorized constructions, blocking of natural water sources etc as informed by the citizens. People are mobilized to meet Justice Sawant to present evidences regarding the concerned issues. The judgment given by Justice Sawant is passed on to the Municipal Corporation to use it as a suggestion for any action that is to be taken by the PMC in this regard.

The group recommends that PMC should improve accessibility of public transport, provide increase bus numbers, good feeder services and introduction of smaller buses as the old city area is too chaotic. They also would like to have a proper implementation of CMP which can also help in reducing traffic issues in Pune.

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National Advocacy Officer,
Work for a Better Bangladesh

Work for a Better Bangladesh Trust, a non-governmental organisation founded in 1998 works on a range of issues including promoting non-motorised transport and walkability in Dhaka. Under gthe liveable cities program, the group is working on urban transport issue doing advocacy, research, material development, networking, capacity building, engagement with media, awareness raising etc. The key area of work is promoting non-motorised transport -- walking, cycling, cycle rickshaws, and also public transport, rail and discouraging car use. The group works with government and local government as well as media groups.

One of the key campaign was demanding zebra crossing on roads for pedestrians to cross. They themselves painted zebra crossings on some roads when the administration did not listen to their demands.

WBB Trust also conducted a walkability study in 5 areas of Dhaka city. Some of the observation and perception results showed that mixed land use is important for walkable environment, low motorized traffic is an opportunity to make pedestrian friendly environment, footpaths are needed, roads and footpaths should be free from vehicle parking. The policy recommendations of the study included -- create Non-motorized Transportation Cell, develop a Pedestrian Charter of Rights, develop independent outdoor businessmen/hawker support and management policy, establish charges to reduce parking on streets and develop landuse policy. WBB Trust is recommending for mandatory funding for pedestrian facilities, capacity building for relevant government stakeholders about walking facilities, build comfortable and wide footpaths in all roads, create safe, comfortable, at-grade crossing on roads, establish walking friendly street as model, management of independent outdoor business (hawker) in footpath to ensure social security, develop methods for evaluating pedestrian impacts of different road/other projects, introduce and widely celebrate carfree days, include pedestrian priority on streets in drivers’ training and also organise awareness campaigns on pedestrian rights.

Shahjalal Avenue is a busy street near planned BRT station. It has been selected as a pilot street to improve the walkability and safety of the pedestrians. It has high volume of pedestrians, poor footpath quality or no footpaths, presence of street vendors, illegal car parking etc.

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Coordinator, Centre for Rural Development,

Centre for Rural Development is known for its unique Rickshaw Bank initiative. The pilot phase of the Rickshaw Bank was launched in Guwahati and later was expanded to the other areas in Assam and in other states also.

CRD is involved in designing of rickshaws and to provide rickshaws to rickshaw pullers on an installment basis. The rickshaw bank of CRD was initiated in 2004. The first design of the Dipbahan rickshaw was designed by IIT Guwahati and 12 times modification has been done since then. Lately solar panels have been added to the rickshaws. Along with solar panel there is a battery, front side headlight for night, back lights on backside and FM radio and a light atop for passengers and a mobile charger. After the success of Dipbahan, CRD has indulged in designing carts for other purposes which includes momo cart, vegetable cart, fruit cart, water cart, fast food cart, fish cart, school carriers and garbage carriers. The group also tried of experimenting with solekshaws, which were initiated in old Delhi but could not sustain it due to many problems including high cost and problems in charging. 

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Secretary, ARPAN Society

ARPAN Society had launched a campaign demanding footpath, measures to contain vehicular movement in Agartala and to impose ban on sanctioning car loans from nationalized banks in 2003. A PIL was filed in Guwahati High Court in 2008 seeking redress from growing pollution, withdrawal of 15 years old vehicles from the road; strengthening public buses in all city destinations, ensure encroachment free footpaths and pedestrians’ right to walk on street. After the court direction, the government in 2009 started phasing out 15 year old three-wheelers and ensure led-free petrol supply in the city pumps besides, setting up of emission testing centres in the city. The group has also initiated a campaign to ensure walkability in the city and encourage cycling, strengthening of public transport in Agartala. Recently, the group has formed a cycle club in Agartala to promote cycling.

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Co-founder and President,
Manipur Cycle Club, Imphal

Manipur Cycle Club was formed to promote cycling in Imphal. The group thought of cycling as a mark of protest on the issues of oil and globalization happening at a faster pace. According to the group, ‘To cycle is a political fight. It’s an everyday struggle not only about an individual cycling but also trying to bringing in policies, changes on the streets, remove cars, bringing back people to walk and to cycle.’ As northeastern cities are confronting the traffic congestion nightmare, the governments have to formulate rigorous policies to stop people to buy cars. Inorder to reduce traffic congestion, some like minded people came together and formed the cycle club. The club formed in 2011 grew from just 20 members to more than 500. They aim to make Imphal a cyclable city as it is a small city of 7 sq km area. Cycling is the best suited transportation mode.

The club has been able to introduce cycle on rent in Kangla - cultural and historical site in central Imphal. The group plans to expand it to Universities which are willing to introduce this facility. The group is also advocating for cycle lanes in the city and has been lobbying with the government demanding safe routes and lanes for cycles. The group has also been instrumental in designating the main market area in Imphal into a non-motor way during rush hour. But after 6 months, it was again changed to what it was before due to the lobby of the business community.

Bamboo cycle fabrication is one of the new things that the group is involved with. Bamboo cycle fabrication includes only replacing the main steel frame replacing with bamboo. Thus cycles will be made at a cheaper rate, at half the price to make it available for the people. The group will start selling bamboo cycles at a cheaper rate for people to be easily available.

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Member, Sahasi Padyatri and General Secretary,
Welfare Organization for Road Safety and Prevention of Accidents,

Sahasi Padyatri, a pedestrian rights movement began in 2008 to increase walkability and pedestrian safety in Mumbai. There are other organizations like Welfare Organisation for Road Safety and Prevention of Accidents, which is working to promote walking and on road safety issues in the city.

The group identifies a problem and also brings in a solution. Their style of advocacy is to make collages detailing all the aspects of the issue and presenting it in front of a concerned official. This helps in identifying a problem, its location and also what could be done to rectify that particular problem. The matter is dealt at two levels. Firstly, with the concerned government department and other related departments and secondly with the media. The media helps in highlighting a particular issue that is taken up. The group feels that it is very important to understand the nitty-gritty and technicalities of the issue to keep a hold on the issue. Issues taken up by the group include reconstruction of footpaths, roads, parking, encroachments, speed breakers, zebra crossings and other infrastructure. These groups are also involved in remodeling of footpaths across western suburbs of Mumbai. They were able to get footpaths reconstructed at few places.

Projects Head, Kuhad Trust,

Kuhad Trust, a Jaipur based group is involved with rickshaw puller’s financing scheme in the city. Their ‘Own your rickshaw scheme’ was initiated in 2004-05 to generate employment for rickshaw pullers, make them self sufficient and self reliant by enabling them to own the rickshaws at no extra financial burden and to finance them as they are not able to get loans easily. As per this scheme the rickshaw puller owns the rickshaw by the end of the 15th month. The scheme was also taken to reduce congestion, promote ecofriendly and affordable public transport services.

Rickshaws are assembled locally and free maintenance is provided round the year. Rickshaw’s weight has been reduced to 75 kg from conventional 95 kg. The plying has been smoothened. The group has also collaborated with United India insurance to provide rickshaw pullers free medical and rickshaw insurance.

Since 2004, 2,402 rickshaws have been disbursed and about 1,854 have already owned the rickshaw. Recovery of installments from rickshaw pullers is excellent. The governor of Rajasthan, impressed with the scheme accorded a grant Rs. 1,000 per rickshaw to the rickshaw pullers.  Nearly 185 rickshaw pullers have benefited through this grant.

Kuhad Trust has certain expectations from the government agencies. These include, issue of licenses to rickshaw and rickshaw pullers by the Jaipur Nagar Nigam; grooming of rickshaw pullers as guide by the RTDC; traffic police should give proper traffic training to rickshaw puller and there is a dire need to make dedicated tracks and stands for them; collaborating with Jaipur metro station to make exclusive/dedicated rickshaw stands within 100 meters from the station and discussing with corporates to put in advertisements on back of rickshaw so that the revenue can be used to strengthen the rickshaw pullers.

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DICE Foundation,

DICE Foundation is a non-governmental organisation establsihed in 20006 and deals with environmental and social justics issues. The group is working on land rights, pollution and urban development issues in Nagaland. The group plans to work on the vehicular pollution and transport issue in Kohima as the town is suffering from traffic congestion due to increase in vehicle numbers. The challenges, according to the group is inefficiency of the government, the view of the local administration that building more roads and widening the existing roads is the only way to ease the town’s traffic congestion and poor city planning which is leading to the town getting choked. The group would assess the air pollution and transportation problems in Kohima, conduct surveys, collect data and contribute in  policy making. It also aims to collaborate with other NGOs doing similar work and also with the state governement in tackling the problems. The overall aim is to influence policy decisions that will address and correct the problems currently faced by Kohima.


GOGOI, Advocate,

Krishna Gogoi, an advocate working on human rights issue in Guwahati has initiated to take up the cause of vehicular pollution and transport issue. The activities include awareness raising about the vehicular pollution and also promotion of bus transport.
Guwahati is facing similar issues like other cities. Places in the city were easily accessible earlier but now because of the traffic congestion, it becomes very difficult to travel by a cycle rickshaw. Nearly 5 lakh people use city buses. The bus frequency is low and the buses stop very frequently which leads in delay in journeys. He has initiated work to raise awareness amongst bus drivers. He has also given a memorandum to the deputy commissioner on this issue which is at the discussion level.


Coordinator and

Assistant Coordinator,
Matsya-Mewat Shiksha Evam Vikas Sansthan,

Matsya-Mewat Shiksha Evam Vikas Sansthan is an Alwar based organisation involved in promoting non-motorised transport. The group is involved with campaigning for promotion of cycle rickshaws and also use of cycles by school girls. The group is also campaigning against vans which have been introduced by the local administration in place of autorickshaws.

A survey by this group revealed that only 10 per cent of people owned cars in Alwar and the rest owned either cycle rickshaws, autorickshaws, cycle or two-wheelers. There are 1,400 rickshaw pullers who earn Rs. 150-200 per day and also vendors who supply vegetables, milk etc to the city. These people who play an important role in a city and contribute to the city’s needs are never included in any of the development plans or any planning issue of that particular city. Alwar also has problems like any other city or town -- lack of rickshaw stands, no hawker or vendor zone, road space encroached by cars and there are hoardings which lead in difficulty in walking. There were 150 autorickshaws which used to ply in Alwar have been replaced by 750 vans. The increase number of autos in 15 sq km area creates chaos.

The NGO teaches cycling to girls in rural areas so that they can be independent themselves.


Executive Director,

Sudha Akhil Bhartiya
Viklang Kalyan Sansthan Dehradun and

Sudha Sansthan, Ajmer

Sudha Akhil Bhartiya Viklang Kalyan Sansthan is engaged in road safetyprograms since 1994. They are working with state authorities in Uttarakhand including transport department, traffic police, Nagar Nigam etc to raise awareness about traffic and road safety issues. They are also mobilizing school children to raise awareness on these issues. In addition to Uttarakhand, they are working in Ajmer, Rajasthan to raise awareness about traffic and road safety issues.


Field Officer,
Paryavaran Mitra, Ahmedabad

Paryavaran Mitra, an Ahmedabad based organisation is working on socioeconomic issues. The group is active in the environment impact assessment process with a focus to ensure that environment public hearings in Gujarat are a transparent and democratic channel to voice public grievances against industrial pollution and disasters. The group is also involved with awareness raising about Diwali pollution. They are interested to work on air pollution especially vehicular pollution issue.

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Paryavaraniya Vikas Kendra, Rajkot

Paryavaraniya Vikas Kendra works in the field of environment education and natural resources management in Saurashtra, specifically in Rajkot, Jamnagar, Bhavnagar and Junagarh districts. The group is also active in the preparation of environment education activity manual for teachers and students and raising awareness on issues of pollution amongst the urban children.

The group feels that the air quality of Rajkot has to be maintained at the current level so that it is not deteriorated. Rajkot has vehicles plying on CNG. Even the personal vehicles are running on CNG. The group would like to take up the cause of creating awareness about air pollution and traffic rules.. As far as the JNNURM programme is concerned the Rajkot Municipal Corporation have got funds for building roads and cycle tracks but one would find tea stalls flourishing in place of cycle tracks. There is no signage which informs about the cycle track. The group would like to work on the NMT issue.


Rashtriya Janhit Vikas Sansthan, Dehradun

Rashtriya Janhit Vikas Sansthan is a Dehradun based organisation involved in raising awareness about road safety and air pollution issues in Uttarakhand.


Evangelical Social Action Forum

Evangelical Social Action Forum, a Trissur based organisation is working on pedestrian issues promoting walkability. The group is also involved with activities such as promotion of car free street and safe route to school.

The Livable Cities Program was started in 2009 to assess how friendly Bangalore city is for children. Based on the indicators of transport, safety, health, education, neighbourhood, landuse and governance, a study was conducted among 800 school children from 4 zones of Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagar Palike zones from both government as well as private schools across all socioeconomic background, and also including 200 teachers and parents from the same zones, police officials, health professionals, officials from government and non-governmental organization. Play space crunch in terms of parks and playgrounds either in the school or in their neighbourhood, safety of children while they travel to and fro to school and poor governance in terms of implementation of existing policies etc were the key findings of the study. For the next phase of the study, the ESAF has decided to work on the indicators of neighbourhood, landuse, transportation, safety and governance. The key activities include pedestrian friendly programme, child friendly space mapping at Hagadur in Mahadevpura zone, active and safe route to school programme and networking with like minded community and work together for making cities liveable and safe for children.

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