doi:10.1038/nindia.2011.118 Published online 17 August 2011

India's polluting car parks

Worsening air quality in India's metros and injudicious use of urban space have prompted experts to recommend large scale reforms in vehicular parking in these burgeoning cities.

An international conference organised by New Delhi-based NGO Centre for Science and Environemnt (CSE) saw city regulators, civil society representatives and experts from cities across the world discuss 'Parking Reforms for a Liveable City' here today.

The take home from the conference was that the parking crisis in cities like New Delhi seem to stem from growing dependence on cars and availability of free parking. "Solutions do not lie in alloting more urban land for parking but in shifting to other modes and releasing the space for other important uses", accoding to Anumita Roychowdhury, CSE's executive director-research and advocacy and head of its air pollution team.

Parking takes up close to 10% of Delhi's urban land but cars pay pittance to use this land. Cars carry only about 14% of of the city's commuters but choke its roads, walkways and green spaces in return. Parking also entails many hidden costs — pollution, congestion, traffic delays and wastage of fuel.

The conference recommended good parking management, pay parking and popularisation of other modes of public transport for better utilisation of urban land and to decrease vehicular pollution.

Cities such as Hong Kong have office buildings in the central area with very little parking space and are very well connected with other modes of transport. Despite high car ownership, Tokyo provides less parking slots —only 0.5 slots per 100 sq m in commercial buildings. However, Delhi, with 115 cars per 1,000 people, provides two to three parking slots per 100 sq m.

Recently, India's Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) has also recommended to the Supreme Court that additional parking space in cities be limited. Individual users should pay for the use of the space for parking and 'user pays principle' should be applied.