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'Eco-friendly': 58% of Delhi's 2 lakh waste pickers move in cycles to collect waste

Counterview Desk
Safai Sena, in partnership with Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group* and Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), organized a cycle rally on November 16 in New Delhi as an awareness campaign to reduce air pollution and create safe spaces for cyclists and pedestrians on the road. 
A note prepared by Safai Sena representatives A Manwara Begum and B Jaiprakash Choudary, and Chintan representatives Shruti Sinha points to why waste pickers, kabaris and junk dealers, who move around in cycles for earning their livelihood are more eco-friendly.

Text:

As air pollution is on the rise and vehicular pollution from motorized transport is one of the biggest recognized causal factors, we believe that in order to promote better air quality and make cities more liveable we need better data-driven decisions based on the latest scientific studies. 
Emissions from vehicular pollution are believed to be one of the major contributors to pollution in Delhi. As per the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), vehicular emissions are responsible for 40% of the pollution in the National Capital.
Studies done by the Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI) also show that the transport sector is the main source of PM2.5 emissions in Delhi (28 percent of all PM2.5 emissions). Vehicular contribution also makes up 80 percent of nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide in Delhi’s air.
In an article in The Lancet on health impact, alternate transport scenarios were estimated in cities like London and Delhi. It was found that, for Delhi, cleaner motor vehicles and increased active travel scenarios (walking and cycling) resulted in a greater health gain from reduced air pollution.
According to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, persons killed in non-motorized transport in the years 2018 and 2019 were 3585 and 11242 respectively. Pedestrians, cyclists and other non-motorised vehicles accounted for 27.3% of all road accident deaths in the year 2019. 
To quote the World Health Organization, our roads are "particularly unsafe for pedestrians, cyclists who, without the protective shell of a car around them, are more vulnerable. These road users need to be given increased attention. While progress has been made towards protecting people in cars, the needs of these vulnerable groups of road users are not being met.”
More than two lakh waste pickers are involved in managing 20-25% waste generated in Delhi from door-to-door collection to recycling and recovering of waste. The mode of waste collection is mostly cycles (58%), followed by walking (24%) and rickshaws (18%). 
The average distance travelled by waste pickers using these three environmentally friendly modes of transport is 11-16 km each day. They are not only contributing for a cleaner planet but saving the climate by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and act as mitigators of climate change. Safai Sena, a collective of waste pickers, kabari’s, recyclers, and junk dealers demand:
  • Cycling lanes to be provided to promote the culture of cycling
  • Space be provided for parking of cycles, handcarts and rickshaws at residential and non-residential areas
  • Free passes to be given for cycle, handcart, and rickshaw so that waste pickers continue to keep the planet clean without any problem.
  • Subsidy by the government should be provided to informal sector workers on cycles, handcarts, and rickshaws
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*Safai Sena is a registered collective of waste pickers, door-to-door waste-pickers, kabaris, junk dealers, other small buyers, small scrap dealers, and other types of recyclers; Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group is an independent, non-profit, non-government organization working in the field of sustainability and environmental justice for the past 20 years

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