The link between Road safety and Environmental sustainability

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    In News 

    Recently, It has been observed that Roads and the environment are inseparable spaces.

    About Linkage 

    • In addition to ensuring an easier, more comfortable, and more secure commute, safer roads also have a positive impact on the environment. 
    • In 2021, India reported 4,03,116 crashes, each of which adversely impacted the environment in various ways and in different degrees. 
    • Most vehicles contain toxic metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium or hexavalent chromium, which are detrimental to the environment. 
    • Fuel and fluid leaks are seen at crash sites. 
      • Severe road crashes lead to automobile wreckage, which becomes a part of unusable end-of-life vehicles. This gives rise to scrappage.

    Existing Issues 

    •  India is estimated to have about 22.5 million end-of-life vehicles by 2025. 
    • With the absence of widespread, systematic facilities dedicated to their proper recycling, vehicles after road crashes as well as old end-of-life automobiles are left to rot by the wayside. 
    • Some end up at landfills or at informal recycling facilities where rudimentary hand tools are utilized to unscientifically dismantle them. 
      • This leads to the leakage of hazardous constituents such as oils, coolants, and glass wool. 
    • Vehicle landfills turn into automobile graveyards leading to wasteful and sub-optimal land usage and water and soil pollution for decades.
    • Speeding limits: One of the biggest factors for road crashes is speeding.
      • Speeding has consistently been responsible for over 60% of all road crash fatalities in India in the last five years. 
    • Missing or inadequate signages are another leading cause of road crashes.
      •  Their absence results in road users being unaware of a stretch’s unique features in a timely manner, which could lead to crashes. 
      • It is a common standard practice to use asbestos for creating these signages. asbestos has an adverse impact on the environment.

    Global Efforts 

    • Simulation exercises in Europe have demonstrated that cutting motorway speed limits even by 10 km/h can deliver 12% to 18% fuel savings for current technology passenger cars, along with a significant reduction in pollutant emissions, particularly Nitrogen Oxides and particulate matter (PM) output, from diesel vehicles. 
    • A similar study conducted in Amsterdam demonstrated that where the speed limit was lowered from 100 km/h to 80 km/h, PM reduced by up to 15% thereby significantly improving air quality. S
    • Consequently, several governments globally have reduced speed limits to prevent crashes and lower air pollution. 

    Various initiatives in  India 

    •  In India, the Zero-Fatality Corridor solution for road safety by the SaveLIFE Foundation (SLF) takes environmental sustainability seriously and focuses on reducing speeding through advanced engineering and enforcement technologies.
    • The Foundation’s Zero-Fatality Corridor (ZFC) programme, which was deployed on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway in 2016, helped bring down road crash fatalities by 52%, as of 2020.
    • Similar interventions were introduced in 2018 on the Old Mumbai-Pune Highway and helped reduce the road crash fatalities on this stretch by 61%, as of 2021.
    • Initiatives included guarding natural hard structures such as trees using crash barriers to prevent direct collisions, and installing retro-reflective signage on the trees to make them more visible to commuters. 
    • The Government of India is now building green corridors to go over forests and animal paths as opposed to going through them. 
      • Scaling this will have a profound impact on preserving the environment while ensuring better road connectivity.

    Conclusion and Way Ahead 

    • Roads and the environment are inseparable spaces. They are not just our shared resources but also our joint responsibility. 
    • Therefore, safer roads and a sustainable environment can be ensured only through the joint efforts of road-owning agencies, enforcement officials, and the public.

    Mains Practice Question 

    [Q]Road safety and environmental sustainability are closely intertwined concepts. Discuss