Two-Stroke Rickshaw Chief Pollution Contributor in Peshawar

PESHAWAR, Oct 18 (APP): Almost extinct in other parts of the country, the decades old two-stroke rickshaws are largely contributing to environmental degradation and polluting Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s metropolis, Peshawar, sadly without any check.

These two-stroke noise creating rickshaws must burn engine oil with fuel to ply on roads and release hazardous smoke which besides polluting the environment, leaves a very bad impact on human health. It’s a routine view on Peshawar roads that a single two-stroke rickshaw covers the entire scene behind with thick smoke for the commuters following the three-wheeler.

Approximately there are over 70,000 rickshaws in Peshawar with more than half having no registration. Among these rickshaws over 8,000 are two-stroke. The excessive number of rickshaws is not only a major reason for traffic mess in Peshawar but above all a big challenge to environment protection and safety of human health. The health risks of air pollution created by these rickshaws are serious as poor air quality increases respiratory ailments like asthma and bronchitis that heighten the risk of life-threatening conditions.

Chaos on the roads along with emission of hazardous gases by vehicles, especially by rickshaws, is growing and so is the threat to the people’s health. No doubt these rickshaws are a major pollution contributor, producing significant amounts of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and other pollution.

According to a recent study done in several parts of the city, presence of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides in the air is much higher than the international standard set by the World Health Organization. The air is heavily polluted by smoke and noise. The noise level in the city ranges from 90 to 100 decibels though its limit set by WHO is 85 decibels. Doctors blame rickshaws for noise pollution which according to them is the major cause of high incidence of hearing impairment, hypertension and heart problems among locals.

Dr Hamza Khan of Khyber Teaching Hospital said the noise generated by three-wheelers has a negative bearing on human hearing and causes blood pressure, hypertension, palpitation, breathing difficulty, stomach problems, stress and sleep disorders. He said 30 per cent of his patients complained of hearing problems largely due to high noise levels of rickshaws.

Interestingly, when asked from a two-stroke rickshaw driver why he was polluting the air, he harshly answered that he was not robbing the people but just earning livelihood for his children. However when calmed, he said that in fact this rickshaw could not be run without mixing engine oil in its fuel and it has to burn the lubricants and release smoke.

Besides playing havoc with people’s health, these three wheelers have also turned out to be big violators of traffic laws. These drivers run traffic lights maneuvering their vehicles and risking the life of other road users. Most of the drivers of these rickshaws even have no proper legal documents of the vehicle and driving licenses, yet they drive like monarchs of the roads. They seem accustomed to violating traffic rules. It is also evident that the traffic mess is mostly caused by the three-wheelers and if the number of these rickshaws was curtailed, 70 per cent of traffic jams would disappear.

Moreover almost all two-stroke rickshaws have no horn, proper headlights, indicators and above all a proper brake mechanism which frequently causes major or minor road mishaps on city roads. Though many of the rickshaw owners have acquired four stroke rickshaws that are comparatively environmentally friendly with less noise pollution but still there are scores of smoke emitting two-stroke rickshaws causing air and noise pollution in the city.

The introduction of four-stroke rickshaws has lessened the impact of environmental hazards to some extent, yet their entry in large numbers into the city has thrown traffic into utter chaos. Earlier, during a past government the KPK transport authorities and traffic police had asked the rickshaw owners to convert their two-stroke rickshaws to four-stroke ones without delay but none of the rickshaw owners was ready to obey the order without compensation by the government.

Some of the city dwellers when asked said It was incomprehensible why such vehicles are roaming freely in the city and given permission to play with people’s health in daylight. Arshad Ali, a shopkeeper on Ashraf Road said that though the incumbent KPK government has streamlined the affairs of cleanliness on the ground, the air is being badly polluted by the two-stroke rickshaws which needs solid steps to contain.

This is a thought provoking situation for the authorities concerned, he added. Besides, he said, non-registered rickshaws should be confiscated so that road and civic sense may be instilled into the people.

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