A FORGOTTEN INITIATIVE…?

Editorial GREATER JAMMU

It is really an irony that ‘Car-free day’ that was started all over the world over two decades back and is held on September 22 every year, seemingly has become a totally forgotten initiative despite its significance in bringing down the pollution levels. In India while the day was observed in some cities across the nation including Gurugram and Delhi a few years back conveying mes- sage to the people about the significance of the project that is vital for the health of the Earth and its flora and fauna, it seems that both the government as well as the people have forgotten this idea that should have become a regular feature, i.e. at least a monthly affair if not weekly. ‘A Car-Free Day’ encourages motorists to give up their cars for one day in a year besides organizing multiple events in cities across various countries. Such an event not only brings down the pollution and congestion level for a day but also promotes improvement of mass transit to cycling and walking, and even the development of communities where job sites are closer to home and shopping is within walking distance. It is an acknowledged fact that there are many dis- tances within cities which can be traversed in much less time on foot or riding a bike, but the addiction of cars seems to be too high for the commuters to switch over to the time saving modes.
One fails to understand where has the sensibility of people gone in this fast moving world witnessing a mad materialistic race. The projects like ‘Car-free Day’ actually began on an ad hoc basis starting soon after the 1973 oil crisis and it was only in October 1994 that a structured call for such projects was issued in a keynote speech by Eric Britton at the International Ciudades Accessibles Conference held at Toledo in Spain. Thereafter events were organized in Reykjavík (Iceland), Bath (United Kingdom) and La Rochelle (France), and the informal World Car Free Days Consortium was organized in 1995 to support Car- Free Days worldwide finally being established as a Europe-wide initiative by the European Commission in 2000. In the same year it was felt that the ‘Car Free Day’ should be a programme in col- laboration with Earth Day Network as the basic aim of both these programmes is the same. Unfortunately Indian efforts in this direction have been much below expectation as very less people in India are aware of the project ‘Car Free Day’. Though there are a few cities in India where people seem to be quite conscious about their role in keeping the environment pollution free by mak- ing minimum use of vehicles including the cars yet there needs to be initiated a mass movement in this direction to make everyone aware about the already taken initiatives in different cities across India. Bangalore is one of the best examples where even CEOs of some national and multinational companies have already made cycling the regular mode of commutation between homes and offices followed by their subordinate staff. Some of the multina- tional companies in India having huge office complexes spread over acres with sprawling lawns and lush greenery do not permit automobiles beyond the outermost ring of the campus from where the employees irrespective of their designation are provided bicy- cles to paddle it out to and fro their respective office buildings. It is high time that a nationwide campaign be launched on this glob- al movement in India not only by observing the day on 22nd September every year but by making it a weekly affair to achieve the desired target. It needs to be borne in mind that the sine qua non of success of any initiative is the achievement of broad pub- lic support and commitment to change. So let the people of the World’s largest democracy take a pledge today to institutionalize in our country the Project ‘Car Free Day’ that was launched for the first time in February 2000.