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Posted by on Oct 21, 2013 in Environment, International, Society | 2 comments

Environmentalist Sunita Narain injured riding bicycle in Delhi

Internationally-acclaimed and India’s pioneering environmental activist, Ms Sunita Narain was seriously injured when her bicycle was hit by a speeding car in the heart of New Delhi. Narain hit international headlines, and made several enemies a decade ago, when her NGO revealed that famous soft drinks brands, including Coca Cola and Pepsico, contained unacceptably high levels of pesticide residues. … Also, see here…

A fitness enthusiast, the 52-year-old Director-General of the not-for-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) was in surgery for over eight hours on Sunday and was unable to speak much when the police tried to record her statement today. But she has reportedly told them that she was hit by “a big red car.” See here…

Sunita Narain was named one of the world’s 100 Public Intellectuals three times by the U.S. journal, Foreign Policy. She received the World Water Prize for her work on rainwater harvesting and policy influence for community-based water management. (In the photo above – From left, Sir Nicholas Stern, Sunita Narain, and panel moderator Kemal Dervis, administrator of the UN Development Programme. Photo courtesy UN)

“Cyclists in Indian cities are being edged out systematically to make way for cars – sometimes literally so,” she had written prophetically in her journal Down to Earth a few months ago. The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) is a not-for-profit public interest research and advocacy organisation based in New Delhi, India. Established in 1980, CSE works as a think-tank on environment-development issues in India.The CSE uses knowledge-based activism to create awareness about problems and propose sustainable solutions.

In June this year, athlete and national cycling coach, Ruma Chattopadhyay, was mowed down by a speeding car while she was riding a bicycle, training young cyclists for an upcoming championship in Greater Noida near Delhi. She succumbed to her injuries. More here…

Until the early 1980s, Delhi was a comparatively safe place for cyclists. Riding a bicycle in present-day Delhi roads is a suicidal act. We ape the West but refuse to learn the discipline involved in driving cars, and respecting traffic rules. There are no stringent tests to debar those who have no clue about driving.

The city/urban planners seldom think and plan from the perspective of pedestrians and cyclists, and their safety. That is why we have chaos on Indian roads. The high-powered SUVs and other fast cars are multiplying fast, and have become killers on Delhi/Chandigarh and roads elsewhere in the country.

I think that less than 30 per cent of the accidents and fatalities involving cars and cyclists/pedestrians are reported in India. Our country is facing a major crisis but refuses to learn that Western car-dependent lifestyle is a killer in the complex and crowded Indian cities and non-urban areas.

India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru and others understood this and allowed only two models – Ambassador and Fiat. This was erring on the side of caution. How can we flood the country with cars without proper planning and ensuring safety of pedestrians and cyclists?

The present Indian government has crazy priorities, and has no time to think about the public needs and safety. So, until some sanity returns, the cycle should be kept under lock and key at home. We can only pray for the safety of those who have to ride bicycles for financial reasons.

A study by University of Michigan and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Delhi, shows that the number of people killed in road accidents in India has increased at eight per cent annually in the past decade—nearly the rate at which car sales have grown. Cyclists and pedestrians are more than half of all road fatalities in the country but draw public disdain and policy hostility. More here…

(In this file photo below, a man cycles to work on a foggy cold morning in New Delhi. AP)