Who needs public transport?: With no viable alternatives, people turn to private vehicles

During the last six months, 25,428 cars were registered by the Excise and Taxation Dept.

Obaid Abbasi July 21, 2013
An average of 150 vehicles per day were registered between January 1 and June 30, says the ETD Director Naila Baqar. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: The absence of an efficient public transport system in Islamabad has left its residents with no choice but to source their own alternatives. It should come as no surprise then that capital saw an unprecedented number of registered private vehicles during the first six months of 2013.

The Excise and Taxation Department (ETD) registered 25,428 private vehicles, an average of 150 vehicles per day, between January 1 and June 30, the department’s Director Naila Baqar said. “This figure has been increasing over the last five years mainly because commuters do not have a good public transport system to rely on,” she added.

Another senior official in the department held the car financing scheme introduced by then-finance minister Shaukat Aziz responsible for the rise in private vehicle registration. The scheme, with the help of banks, provided easy loans to individuals and incentivised car ownership, creating a bubble in auto sector.

Capital Development Authority (CDA) Chairman Nadeem Hassan Asif admitted that the proliferation of private vehicles was a concern but claimed that the civic agency was taking steps to launch a public transport system in the capital which may mitigate the problem.

Responding to a question about steps that were being taken to widen roads to accommodate the increasing number of vehicles, Asif said there was no need to do so as long as a comprehensive traffic management system was in place.

Road accidents in Islamabad

According to data collected by the Islamabad Traffic Police (ITP), 48 people were killed and 67 injured in road accidents from January 1 to July 16, 2013.  In 2012, the corresponding figures were 56 and 60 for the entire year.

ITP Spokesperson Shams Gill claimed that if public transport was provided in the capital, the number of road accidents would be reduced by half.

Environmental effects

With an increasing number of vehicles on the road, environmental damage is inevitable. Former Ministry of Climate Change director-general Jawed Ali Khan said that exceedingly high levels of pollution have been recorded since the car lease system was introduced in the country.

Moreover, the carbon emissions that vehicles produce are a significant contributor to global warming, he added.

“If the government had established a good mass transit system for its commuters, people would not resort to purchasing private vehicles, Khan said.

Public health concerns

As a result of the government’s inability to curb the number of cars on roads, Islamabad residents have also had to pay a price, more often than not on their health.

Dr Asadullah Nemati, a senior chest specialist at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, said that vehicles’ air pollution adversely affected the human body’s respiratory system.

Carbon monoxide released from the exhaust fumes of a running car engine are known to be one of the primary causes of lung cancer, he added.

Nemati confirmed that the number of asthma patients admitted to Pims in recent years had also increased because of the polluted atmosphere.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2013.

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