Road accidents cost 3% to India’s GDP

It is estimated road accidents alone cost 3% to India’s GDP. However shocking, this comes as no surprise given that India reports maximum number of road accident deaths globally. No doubt, urban transport in India needs to turn to urgent action in a mission mode.

India traffic accidentsThe Energy and Resources Institute’s advisory addresses future options and throws light on cost of inaction. Dr R K Pachauri, Director-General, TERI, says, “Environmental issues are often presented within the framework of conflict between environment and development. What is attempted here is a refreshing departure which provides a price tag on the damage that poor environmental quality and degradation is imposing on human society and how substantially lower-cost action can avoid this burden. What is included here are sectors largely within urban areas, but a similar analysis and presentation is essential for rural environmental degradation as well. Undoubtedly, that would be a far more complex challenge analytically, but given the large population in our villages, ignoring such analysis would be at the cost of ignoring the welfare of two-thirds of our population.”

TERI recommends that all Indian cities with a population above 0.5 million population should be provided with adequate and quality bus transport systems. Mega cities that house 5 million should turn to city-wide metro rail based transit systems. Indian urban centres, small or large should for certain make available facilities for pedestrians and non-motorized transport users.

Cities with a population of 1 million and more should state clear action plans to implement transport demand management tools to encourage sustainable modes of transport. As thought out by National Urban Transport Policy, Urban transport authorities should be established in all 0.5 million-plus cities to lead sustainable mobility policies in individual cities.

Air pollution monitoring in Indian cities sees a majority fail standards of air quality with particulate matter (PM) concentration to be many times over standards. About 620,000 mortalities estimated each year in India are attributed to ambient air pollution. Respiratory problems and cardio-vascular impacts are linked to poor air quality. World Bank estimates cost of damage caused by outdoor air pollution in India to be about Rs 1 lakh crore annually accounting to around 1.7% of the total GDP and dent in the economy.

TERI recommends fuel quality improvement and advances in vehicular emissions norms to reduce vehicular emissions. Turning to BS-VI fuel quality and vehicular norms can result in the reduction of 127,000 mortalities by 203o. The upside to implementation of newer norms will soon outweigh costs incurred on initial capital investments.

This entails integration of efforts from multiple sectors by a regulatory body empowered to take sector specific decisions to control air pollution. Indian transport sector should move away from the current dual fuel policy. Subsidies on kerosene and price differential for diesel are to be reconsidered to reduce adulteration.