Can Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal and half a dozen other historical monuments, which attract millions of visitors annually, cope with the exploding human and vehicular population? This question is puzzling town planners and ruling party politicians who seek answers to solve urban problems.
The population of Agra district has crossed five million. Keeping up with speed is the phenomenal increase in the number of vehicles on the road. Apart from over 2 million registered vehicles, Agra also sees thousands of vehicles from other states that use the two expressways and several national highways passing through the city.
To add to the woes of the locals, exploding simian, bovine and canine populations are major areas of concern that need immediate attention from city planners.
The alarming increase in the number of private vehicles has accelerated the decline of the traffic management system if there ever was one. Prolonged traffic jams, angry commuters, escalating road fights and accidents are the daily features of the traffic scenario in the Taj city. Can anything be done to save the city from cultural drowning?
Local citizens’ forums and voluntary organizations say the first big step should be recognizing and respecting the rights of pedestrians and humble cyclists who should always behave well on the roads. The second is planning for mobility management and not traffic management. Activists demand that urban planning should focus on people, not cars and housing.
The 10,400 sq km ecologically sensitive Taj Trapezium Zone has seen an increase in private vehicle use, reflecting the general level of economic development in the region. The share of private vehicle usage in total motorized transport in Agra is comparatively higher than that of metros.
However, city planners hope that by the time the metro rail project takes shape in two years, the number of private vehicles will drop significantly. Ahead of the 2024 general elections, work on the 30-km-long metro network is in full swing.
Environmentalist Devashish Bhattacharya says that the amount of deadly pollution in the air of Agra, Mathura and Ferozeabad is high. Levels of PM10, NO2, SPM, and RSPM remain alarmingly high even after three decades of pollution-fighting measures recommended by the Supreme Court’s high-powered S Vardarajan Committee in 1993. But started.
“The number of cars and two-wheelers has surpassed the number of walk and cycle trips. The city is crossing the tipping point.
Experts say that traffic congestion on almost all roads in the city is taking a heavy toll. Traffic jams lead to wastage of fuel, high pollution and serious economic losses. Normal travel time during peak hours has increased significantly. On many arterial roads, the volume of traffic has exceeded the designed capacity and service level of the roads.
Recently the state government has introduced electric buses on the main routes.
“We expect air pollution levels to come down in the coming months.” An official of the Municipal Corporation said this.
The growing number of vehicles on the roads has exacerbated the acute parking problem, resulting in encroachments, road congestion and severe pollution.
Town planners say all soft options have now been exhausted. The way forward is to permanently reduce the use of private vehicles, upgrade public transport, promote cycling and walking, and shift towards low-polluting, fuel-efficient vehicles in Agra. Jana, which is an internationally recognized heritage city.
Fortunately, TTZ cities have shown appreciable growth in CNG programs that have significantly reduced toxic diesel emissions despite the high price of CNG in Uttar Pradesh.
But, Agra and the entire TTZ have so far largely ignored air quality management, judicial intervention, more stringent measures to control pollution and more importantly, the mindset and behavior of citizens. Deserves a higher level of awareness to change the process. of the ‘River Connect Campaign’ which has been fighting for a long time to save the dying Yamuna river in Agra.
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