The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Two for sorrow on speed route

If the government’s report card shows two out of 14 in its attempt to get engines compliant with Bharat Stage-II (BS-II) hitting the streets, the progress report vis-à-vis traffic management is even more murky. Traffic management is another integral part of making the city clean and green.

Two out of 31 would be the government’s score — bypassing a few half-hearted half-measures — in its efforts to comply with suggestions to ensure that Calcutta’s streets are more BS-II friendly.

According to automobile experts, BS-II-compliant engines are only one of the three aspects that ensure a less sooty future for the city. The two others are an efficient traffic-management system, that allows cars to travel without having to slam the brakes all the time, and a low-sulphur content for the fuel that powers the cars.

“Changing the engines of old vehicles is not the only means to ensure that Calcuttans do not breathe poison,” said an engineer with the transport department. “Conditions should be such that cars do not find it difficult to maintain an average speed of 35 kph to 40 kph and drivers do not need to use the brake and clutch continuously,” he added.

A combination of “ideal driving conditions” would — apart from minimising the cost of fuel — reduce auto emission, explained the official. Ideal road conditions imply streets free from potholes and encroachment and with fewer intersections and, consequently, fewer red lights.

Taking all these factors into consideration, the report submitted to Calcutta High Court by the 10-member committee of experts set up by the government in 2000 included a 31-point list of recommendations to improve the entire traffic-management system and minimise environmental pollution.

“We recommended several schemes to increase vehicular speed, including construction of humps, small flyovers, pedestrian plazas, re-routing the one-way traffic movement, diversion of some routes and minimising red-light stops,” said Ajit Bhattacharya, one of the members of the committee. “Most of them have not materialised,” added the former chief traffic planner and transport engineer.

The government, till date, has shown signs of implementing only two of them — regulating the entry of goods-carrying vehicles within city limits between 8 am and 8 pm and the construction of flyovers.

Members of the committee are miffed at this turn of events. “It is very surprising that the government is more interested in poking its nose into an affair (the change of engines) that, strictly speaking, does not bother it, but the owners of cars,” one of them said.

“The 31 points that we recommended on management of traffic concerns the government alone but it has not thought fit to address these issues at all,” the committee member added.

State transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, however, argued: “We need crores to implement all the recommendations of the expert committee. The government, at present, is not in a position to spend so much… I know how to reduce traffic snarls and improve roads, but please tell me, where is the money'”

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