Need to revive eco-friendly trams
Kolkata's historic Calcutta Tramways turned 150. The celebration, quite significantly, has come at a time when a change to sustainable transportation is required as the world deals with the climate catastrophe and a growing worldwide road safety dilemma.
Kolkata's historic Calcutta Tramways turned 150. The celebration, quite significantly, has come at a time when a change to sustainable transportation is required as the world deals with the climate catastrophe and a growing worldwide road safety dilemma. A sustainable transportation system that is cost-effective, accessible, efficient, and resilient is necessary today in order to reduce environmental impact caused by carbon and other emissions. The transport sector is responsible for 13.5 per cent of the country's energy-related Co2 emissions.
To meet the increase in global average temp to 1.5°C, and global Co2 emissions, we need to reach net zero by 2050 (UNFCCC). By 2050, rates of electrification in the rail and road-focused scenarios will be close to 100 per cent. It is therefore in the fitness of things that the tram users in Kolkata are leaving no stone unturned to recognise sustainable mobile and coexisting with nature by way of celebrating the 150th anniversary of Kolkata Tramways. The Calcutta Tram Users Association in collaboration with SwitchON Foundation has taken initiatives to create awareness among the masses of the value and benefits of sustainable transportation by promoting trams and other green, sustainable modes of transportation including bicycles, solar-powered vehicles and electric cars. All such moves aim at adopting an integrated approach for greening the transport sector in this 332 year old city, which other cities can also replicate eventually.
Interestingly, the recent move coincides with the local authorities' moves to phase out trams, one of the last few surviving tramways in the world, from the city on ground of being a slow moving vehicle, causing traffic snarls. Trams are operational only few select routes in the city. Mind you that trams are not just known for their heritage and iconic value, but they also constitute an emission-free public transport system. Experts, therefore, feel that there is a need to integrate modern tram systems and sustainable modes of transport into the mobility system. They further say trams can actually complement electrical vehicles (EVs) in reducing Kolkata's carbon footprint and contribute to India's fight against climate change.
Ironically, Kolkata is also now the second most air polluted city in the world with high to extreme carbon emissions emanating from the transport sector with increased risk of lung related illness and premature death on the rise. Air and carbon pollution have increased from moderate to high and deadly levels as tramways have been downgraded and trams routes have been closed.
Having said all these, one must remember that funding for public transportation and electric vehicles is crucial, it's also crucial to revitalize existing networks like trams. Decarbonising transportation and bringing back the formerly fantastic tramways should be top priorities! Additionally, it is important to promote non-motorized modes of transportation like cycling and walking for low carbon emission and improve quality of life.
It certainly is a welcome move that the state government is moving aggressively to introduce electric buses in Kolkata and other parts of the state as a significant way to control the air pollution in the city. While investing in electric vehicles and public transit systems is critical, it's also important to revitalize already-existing networks like trams. Transport decarbonisation and reviving the once great tramways should be given the highest priority, many experts feel.