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If you commute in Kolkata, there is not much you can do to avoid the pollution...

Saturday, January 31st, 2004

Kolkata, India

Auto Rickshaws

A chancy commute

Traveling up and down to the Kolkata Book Fair is a unique experience. It can also be dangerous for your health! Not that I worry about such things (even though I did spend the last twenty years in California :-)

Take those ubiquitous auto-rickshaw-taxis I wrote about yesterday. These dirty, old, noisy three-wheel contraptions — powered by inefficient two-stroke engines that release a considerable part of their fuel into the atmosphere without using it — are amongst the most polluting vehicles on the road today.

If you commute in Kolkata, there is not much you can do to avoid the pollution, so it is probably better for your peace of mind if you do not read articles like the "Effect of Air Pollution on Respiratory System of Auto Rickshaw Drivers"!

True, this Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine study — which concluded that "auto rickshaw drivers have a high respiratory morbidity due to exposure to pollution" — was conducted in Delhi, but did you know that Delhi is the only city in India that is more polluted than Kolkata? Cold comfort!

Did I mention that the auto rickshaws also do not have doors or seat belts? Who cares about pollution? I am usually too busy clinging on for dear life, trying not to be thrown off my precarious perch as we bounce over potholes and hurtle perilously through the congested streets...

The effects of "respiratory morbidity due to exposure to pollution" will only be felt years hence. Me, I just want to get through today — to arrive alive at my destination!

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Layout by imonk — January 31st, 2004.