Rawalpindi : Are we going to surrender to the fuel-based and emission-filled lifestyle that pollutes our cities and harms our health or jumpstart new models of healthy living? We need visionary city authorities to stand up and choose what is good for the people in the end.
“Roaming through the Rawalpindi streets today is not as pleasant as it was in my childhood days. The air felt fresh, even a bit scented. The usual cacophonous soundtrack of today’s streets was absent,” says Zamir Haider. “There was no incessant honking to make me neurotic as I walked. Carefree birds chirped in the city trees. It was an incredible feeling compared to the congested and chaotic city of today. I often think, what was the cause of this phenomenon? It was just due to one thing, the absence of motor vehicles on the street,” says Ahsen Raza.
“Planning a vehicle-free pedestrian city is the need of the time. It may seem like an absurdity, particularly when the rising middle class increasingly demands personal cars as the safest mode of transportation and a symbol of their social status,” says Yasmeen Zaidi.
“An actual demonstration of what it would feel like without cars on the street may convince people, particularly the youth, to view car-free streets as a sustainable way of life. It would be the first step toward a healthy, carbon-free lifestyle,” says Dildar Hussain.
“Implementing vehicle-free plans in Rawalpindi can be challenging because the social, economic, and political conditions here are different. However, our desire for betterment must be stronger than our inherent reluctance to invoke change,” says Raziq Naqvi.
“Given the politically powerful transportation mafia, the only way to mobilize public opinion is to demonstrate what is good for the people. People need to see, even at a small scale, what is beneficial and healthy,” says Nazia Batool.
“Things need to happen on two simultaneous fronts. First, we need to bring the healthcare community and urban-planning community together to undertake empirical research on the health benefits of car-free streets, commuting by walking, and low-emissions,” says Farhat Abbas.
“We should have a better grasp of how much are typical household medical bills due to environment-related health hazards? How much of this pathology results from a sedentary lifestyle and environmental pollution. “We need new insights into how urban planning, footpath design, green space, urban water management, urban vegetation, landscape design, and car-free streets can reduce health risks.
“The medical community needs to gain a better understanding of the environmental roots of pertinent diseases so that preventive environmental design can be mainstreamed,” adds Farhat. Rafaqat Ali says, “Our city and its people deserve a healthier environment. Alongside good infrastructure, we also need public places for our mental wellbeing. Rawalpindi should flourish as a place of people, not cars, noise, and anxiety.”