PESHAWAR: Peshawar is no more a 'City of Flowers'. It has rather become a 'City of Rickshaws' as noisy and smoke-emitting three-wheelers heavily outnumber sweet-scented and colourful flowers.According to a recent study done in several parts of the city, presence of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides in the air is much higher than the international standard set by the World Health Organisation.
Chaos on the roads along with emission of hazardous gases by vehicles, especially by rickshaws, is growing and so is their threat to the people's health.
The air is heavily polluted by smoke and noise. The noise level in the city ranges from 90 to 100 decibels though its limit set by WHO is 85 decibels.
Considered one of the most polluted cities in the country, Peshawar has 17 particles per million (PPM) in the air on average, while the number is even 38 PPM at some places though experts consider more than nine PPM injurious to human health.
Doctors blame rickshaws for noise pollution, which, according to them, is the major cause of high incidence of hearing impairment, hypertension and heart problems among locals.
Dr Mohammad Nawaz, an eye-nose-throat medical specialist, said the noise generated by three-wheelers had a negative bearing on human hearing and caused blood pressure, hypertension, palpitation, breathing difficulty, stomach problems, stress and sleep disorders. He said his 30 per cent of patients complained of hearing problems largely due to high noise levels of rickshaws.
Besides playing havoc with people's health, these three wheelers have also turned out to be big violators of traffic laws.
Mostly illiterate, rickshaw drivers run traffic lights maneuvering their vehicles and risking the life of other road users.
Though introduction of four-stroke rickshaws has lessened the impact of environmental hazards to some extent, yet their entry in large numbers to the city has thrown traffic into utter chaos.
If independent estimates are to be believed, more than 50,000 rickshaws ply city roads but of them, only 13,000 are licensed.
Last week, road users breathed a sigh of relief as rickshaw drivers went on a strike against the new traffic management plan for them. However, they later gave in and agreed to the plan under which rickshaws would be painted white and yellow before being allowed to be on the roads in two shifts, from morning to afternoon and then from afternoon to night.
Of late, senior provincial minister Bashir Bilour told traffic police to first regulate rickshaws and then prepare plan for regulating buses and taxis.
However, the question is if it is possible to regulate the ever growing numbers of rickshaws, especially when their owners don't want to be regulated.
The situation on the roads went downhill when 'Ching Chee' rickshaws replaced decades-old tonga culture and since then, people have been experiencing substantial growth in the number of these three-wheelers. Traffic police opposed to grant them approval on the reason that they lacked road safety due to design and would add to traffic mess in urban areas with congested roads.
However, the 'Ching Chee' continued to grab most local routes of the city to provide an easy and quick travel to the people, who cannot afford a ride over taxi or conventional rickshaw.
While some officials in the traffic department consider the matter out of control, mostly believe that a proper mechanism should be devised and laws aimed at curbing this menace should be implemented in letter and spirit.
They say no matter how much the situation aggravates, it could effectively be controlled by implementing laws and stern checking of vehicles, especially rickshaws. —APP