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Delhi Tries to Clear Traffic, Air with Car-Free Day

Heavy traffic moves at dusk in New Delhi, India. Car Free Day is an effort to ease long traffic waits and improve air quality.
Heavy traffic moves at dusk in New Delhi, India. Car Free Day is an effort to ease long traffic waits and improve air quality.
Indian City Experiments with Car-Free Day
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September 22 is known on the Internet as World Car Free Day. People were urged to leave their motorized vehicles at home and take public transportation to work.

World Car-Free Day was observed in a number of areas, including India’s financial center: the city of Gurgaon. The event was not entirely successful there. But many people considered the effort a much needed initiative to reduce pollution levels and traffic problems in Indian cities.

Business leaders and police officers were among those who went out in the heat and sticky weather to take public transportation or ride a bicycle to work. Officials put more buses on the road, and they operated additional shuttle services from metro train stations.

However, some say India’s business capital does not have enough public transportation. And on World Car-Free Day, not everyone left their vehicles at home. There was heavy traffic and traffic delays in several areas.

Gurgaon is home to many companies. It also has pricey apartment homes and high-end shopping malls. The city has grown a lot over the last 10 years as India’s economy has expanded. But its wealth has come at a price: Its roads are filled with cars and its traffic jams are legendary.

It is a story that has been repeated in some measure across India’s cities. The fast growth in motorized vehicles has created traffic jams and worsens air pollution.

The capital, Delhi, is the worst hit. A World Health Organization report said Delhi has the world’s dirtiest air and that is threatening people’s health.

The success of the car-free day in Gurgaon was debatable, but Anumita Roy Choudhury said it was an important first step. She works at New Delhi’s Center of Science and Environment. She hopes the event will put public pressure on policy makers to enact measures in place to limit the number of cars in Indian cities. She would like Indian cities to do what cities like Beijing, Singapore and Hong Kong have done.

“The cities will really have to work with restraint measures. The current practice of giving them free parking, not taxing them, allowing multiple car ownership, all these are now fanning motorization and taking it beyond what is sustainable. Today, if all our cities are getting polluted, it's because those decisions are not getting implemented.”

Gurgaon officials hope to make an example with the initiative. Police Commissioner Navdeep Singh Virk rode a bicycle to work Tuesday. He wants to make every Tuesday a car-free day.

“The idea is not to stop there, the idea is to actually take it to a weekly basis. Because, we are in a state where we actually require it.”

Those who live through the traffic problems of Gurgaon, such as Deepak Rajput, could not agree more.

“Lot of traffic, lot of pollution, we do need less cars, it is a no brainer.”

I’m Mario Ritter.

Anjana Pasricha in New Delhi reported on this story for Mario Ritter adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

encouraged – adj. to be more determined, hopeful or confident

initiative – n. the power or opportunity to do something before other do

legendary – adj. told about in legend; very famous or well-known

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