India needs to work at grassroots level to reduce carbon footprint


By Rajat Jain, Co-Founder, Pataa

Picture this, you’re in your car on a hot summer day, pulling into the same dusty lane for the third time in 10 minutes. You’ve finally bagged an interview at your dream workplace, but the clock is ticking and you’re about to be late.

You know the office is around here somewhere, but the streets are so narrow, and buildings’ names, obscured. Another unsuccessful detour later, you give up, stall your car on the side of the road and exasperatedly look at your watch. Its way past your reporting time, this is no way to make a good first impression.

In another part of the city, in a doctor’s waiting room, someone has just gotten their spirometry test results back. They’ve tested positive for Asthma. Confused? Trust me, there is a link here. One that tends to get lost in the larger debate about the contribution of vehicular emissions to India’s ever growing carbon footprint.

Let the stats do the talking

It’s no secret that deteriorating air quality is one of India’s most pressing problems in recent years. In a report released by IQAir in 2021- 22 of the world’s most polluted cities were in India. Around 8% of total Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions are from the transport sector.

With cities undergoing constant growth through economic development, a drastic increase is seen in the number of motored vehicles. Which means, these GHG emissions levels will only go upward?

And for the climate change deniers out there, the environment isn’t the only thing taking the hit. Air toxicity takes a massive toll on the economy, as well as the general health of the population. Poor air quality can not only worsen existing health issues, but also lead to illness in otherwise healthy individuals. A link has been shown between high air pollution levels and diseases such as cardiovascular and circulatory problems, lung cancer and you guessed it, asthma.

Worrying statistics show that at least 30.7% of deaths in India can be attributed to air pollution from fossil fuels – this means about 2.5 million people die every year after breathing toxic air. Clearly, something needs to change to turn these numbers around.

The problem at hand

Popular solutions touted to reign in the level of carbon emissions are to focus on public transport in favour of private and make the switch to electric vehicles. While these ideas do hold merit, they are not processes that can take place overnight. The need of the hour is far more urgent.

This emphasis on public transport and e-vehicles takes away from conversations on what can be done for existing motored vehicles and their owners, who might not have such options available to them.

It’s a known fact that cities in India are an absolute mish mash of interlocking roads, by-lanes and gullies. Poor urban planning does little to help the confusion in which one can find them when navigating.

Manoeuvring your way around traffic choked lanes and unknown areas can be annoying for sure. But, there’s one aspect of this entire roundabout that is often overlooked – the 10 extra minutes of fuel wastage and carbon emissions that arise out of you trying to locate your destination.

The 10 extra minutes might not seem like much in the moment, but added up, they have the potential to dramatically impact emissions’ numbers.

What it boils down to

In an ideal world, you would always reach your destination on the first try. Or never have to explain, and re-explain your address every time you get a parcel delivered, or have someone over. An easier and accurate navigation system is needed to address this problem.

In part, technology is already rising to the problem with solutions for addresses to be standardized and simplified in a universally understandable manner. A digital addressing system is one step in the right direction to do away with this problem. This can not only make all our lives a little easier, it can also reduce transit time, which in turn will reflect a positive change in carbon emission levels.

While bigger solutions and complete overhauls in the system are needed to see a positive change overall, it is these smaller steps that can help tide us over in the present, and stave off the crisis state until larger measures are in place.

Pataa Navigations is a mobile application to decode the confusing and outdated addressing system in our country.


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