Pune Air Action Hub calls for free bus day to herald clean air, blue skies


A Volvo bus belonging to the PMPML fleet at Swargate in Pune
By encouraging citizens to shift to public transport, the Free Bus Day initiative promotes improved public health, alleviates congestion, supports active mobility like cycling and walking, and gives relief from parking demands. Representational image. Pic: Rovan Vaz/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

In response to the increasing challenges posed by the rising number of private vehicles leading to traffic congestion and air pollution, concerned citizens and organisations in Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad have joined forces to advocate for a “Free Bus Day.” Recognising air pollution as a pressing health emergency affecting citizens across all age groups, particularly children and the elderly, the call for enhanced public transportation emerges as a crucial strategy to combat this crisis.

The Pune Air Action Hub, a dedicated platform committed to addressing air quality concerns, has submitted a letter to the Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML), Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), and Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) to declare the upcoming “International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies” on 7th September as a Free Bus Day.

The International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies is commemorated annually on September 7th in recognition of the fact that clean air is important for the health of people, while air pollution is the single greatest environmental risk to human health and one of the main avoidable causes of death and disease globally. In the letter sent to the PMC and PCMC, the signatories point out that neither of the two cities meet the National Air Quality Standards, and both the cities are implementing the air action plans which focus on public transport.

Read more: Relook at transport policy a must to ensure Delhi residents’ right to clean air

They also write that a free bus day will alleviate the financial burden on residents who rely on public transportation. The Pune Metropolitan area population includes people from various socio-economic backgrounds, and for some, the cost of daily commuting can be a significant expense.

The letter adds that in addition to declaring this a Free Bus Day, the cities should also look at other ways to curb the use of private vehicles ,by taking on different initiatives like declaring some areas car free for a portion of the day, etc. Now that the Metro is also launched, citizens can use a combination of bus/Metro to avoid the use of their personal vehicles.

The full text of the letter can be read here.

Why make bus travel free

Free Bus Days not only promote a healthier urban environment by curbing air pollution but also offer a range of other advantages. By encouraging citizens to shift to public transport, this initiative promotes improved public health, alleviates congestion, supports active mobility like cycling and walking, and gives relief from parking demands.

Read more: Almost every family in Chandigarh has two cars. This is what it has cost the city

Hema Chari, member of Pune Air Action Hub said, “Not only is it important to provide free bus days to citizens, the government as well as other institutions should ask their employees to put aside their private vehicles for a day and commute by bus. Only by encouraging people by giving some incentives, and putting public transportation in the limelight, will there be a behavioural change to want to use a bus.”

Skyline of polluted Pune City
Campaigners feel that the support of municipal authorities can inspire others to take necessary steps towards a greener future and promote the use of public transportation as a viable alternative to private vehicles in the polluted city. Representational image. Pic: Ujjawal Gayakwad/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Sharmila Deo, Senior Programme Associate at Parisar, confirmed that the PMPML CMD, Mr Sachindra Pratap Singh was positive about the recommendation and agreed to implement it if the PMC and PCMC compensated for the loss of a day’s revenue. The PMC as well as the PCMC have agreed to initiate discussions on the recommendation to try and come out with some positive outcomes.

Meanwhile, the Pune Air Action Hub has also started an online petition to spread awareness on the benefits of Free Bus Days and to garner support for their observance throughout the year. National Alliance of People’s Movements, Kalpavriksh, Busकरा, Conscientious Citizen, Save Pune Traffic Movement, INTACH Pune, Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC), Pimpri Chinchwad Citizen Forum (PCCF), Bavdhan Citizens Forum, ITDP India, and D N Studio are some of the city organisations who have supported this demand.

Note: This article is excerpted from a Press Release from Parisar, Pune on behalf of the Pune Air Action Hub.

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