On March 30, Monica Bansal, a graduate student at Colombia University’s School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation visited EMBARQ’s offices and presented her research on Delhi’s auto-rickshaws. These three-wheeled vehicles carry thousands of city residents each day, providing an alternative to private car trips and an important source of jobs in the region.
Unfortunately, auto-rickshaws are also major polluters. In Kolkata, for example, auto-rickshaws comprise 5% of the fleet, but an estimated 35% percent of vehicle-related pollution.
In her talk, Bansal discussed how the Dehli government has moved to address this issue by requiring many auto rickshaw owners to replace their old three-wheelers with new models that run on cleaner-burning Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).
While the CNG program’s intention to reduce air pollution was certainly welcome, Bansal’s research also highlighted the economic burden and numerous inconveniences that the plan has placed on auto-rickshaw drivers. These workers earn on average $60 per month and support 5-8 dependents. Bansal’s interviews with members of this vulnerable group found that they were subjected to 12 hour lines at CNG fuel stations, high priced new CNG vehicles, and increased maintenance costs.
These observations remind us how incorporating the needs of lower socioeconomic classes is a constant challenge. Nevertheless, this task is essential if the costs and benefits of these type projects are to be distributed fairly across society.