India and the United Kingdom (UK) on Saturday launched the clean air street initiative at Church Street in Bengaluru to jointly address the global challenges of air pollution and climate change. The initiative, launched by the UK Catapult Network and the Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) of the Karnataka government, will help transform Church Street in Bengaluru into a green haven for pedestrians by banning traffic movement every weekend from this week onwards for the next three months.
"This is done in an effort to demonstrate innovative ways of combating air pollution," DULT commissioner V Manjula said and added that this was an opportunity to prove that targeted activities to reduce motor vehicle traffic can help reduce pollution, improve the quality of life and be beneficial to local businesses. She said that the clean air street initiative is a part of the wider Innovating for Clean Air (IfCA) programme that is being rolled out in phases across Bengaluru.
Businesses, especially restaurants on this street, will be allowed to extend their seating outdoors temporarily, in line with physical distancing norms, thereby encouraging patrons to stay safe whilst enjoying cleaner air. Church Street will remain closed to motor vehicles between 12 pm on Saturday and 12 am on Sunday, from November 7, 2020 to February 2021.
"The initiative is aimed at reprioritising clean mobility and highlighting the benefits it brings. The project will also serve as a showcase for innovative UK and Indian solutions to tackle climate change," UK Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth, Lord Tariq Ahmad, said in his video message.
He added that the launch of the clean air street initiative is an example of India's forward movement on climate action and to show what both countries can do when like-minded nations work together. He said that the UK, as the COP 26 President, is committed to joining forces with all countries, with civil society, business, and with individuals, to inspire action ahead of the conference in November 2021.
"We owe it to our children to use this tough year to pause, reflect and build back better," he added.
British Deputy High Commissioner Jeremy Pilmore-Bedford said that the launch of the Clean Air Street initiative in Bengaluru could not have come at a more important time.
"The COVID-19 lockdowns here and across the globe made us all appreciate the importance and beauty of clean air and skies. The next year is a crucial year for our climate with the UK hosting COP 26 in November 2021. I am confident that UK-Karnataka collaboration on climate action can deliver substantial progress towards reducing emissions and helping to build back better and greener," he said.
According to the statement the Indian Institute of Science â€” one of the partners in this initiative â€” will be carrying out research to gauge the impact on the quality of life for local residents as well as the economic impact on businesses.
Two of the UK's leading technology centres â€” Energy Systems Catapult and Connected Places Catapult that form part of the Catapult Network â€” will work with partners to measure the difference in air quality after the intervention and also work with electric vehicle innovators to increase citizen awareness and evaluate their experiences through test rides, the statement read.