Women driving electronic autorickshaws evocatively termed ‘She Rickshaws’ are ready to hit the streets in Vizag, taking a ‘smart’ step forward in curbing the pollution emitted by diesel autorickshaws.
The measure, which comes as part of the Smart City proposal submitted by the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) to the Union urban development ministry under the Smart Cities Challenge, will initially see 200 e-rickshaws introduced in and around the RK Beach area, which was identified for an Area Based Development (ABD) project, and later appear in all other areas across the city.
The GVMC estimated that this initial step cost around Rs 2.3 crore. Training for the women drivers is also underway.
“Measures like the introduction of women driven e-rickshaws (She Rickshaws) have been proposed to be operated as an area wide strategy along with the installation of air pollution monitoring devices, ‘smart’ signalling and traffic surveillance in order to reduce diesel-related emissions.
Traffic management and surveillance strategies will take note of the level of pollution data gathered by the pollution monitoring devices,” a senior GVMC official said.
If these are the pros to the electronic alternative, there are the cons too. It is an untested market for e-rickshaws in terms of public perception, durability and efficiency.
“The electronic alternative will replace the current autos, leading to a loss of livelihood for the drivers. It is also anticipated that people may object to the e-rickshaw if it cannot navigate through Vizag’s topography.
This could result in the continued use of diesel-run autos and an undiminished impact on air quality,” said the Smart City proposal.
The GVMC has planned awareness campaigns and opening a dialogue with auto rickshaw drivers as a first step in making them understand the benefits of the e-rickshaw.
As per the Smart City proposal, they would prefer to ask current auto rickshaw drivers to voluntarily opt out of driving the diesel-operated vehicles and go in for the more sustainable alternative. This will minimize fears about a loss of livelihood, the officials felt.