Off to a ‘cycling’ start? Not on Panjab University campus

June 6th, 2008 - 10:22 am ICT by IANS  

By Alkesh Sharma
Chandigarh, June 6 (IANS) Students and teachers alike are known to cycle their way around in campuses across the world - but a similar initiative on the Punjab University campus here has found few takers.
Only a handful of people on campus pedal their way to class, even though the university’s geology department has been campaigning hard against the ill effects of carbon emissions from motor vehicles, which are known to accelerate global warming.

Arun Ahluwalia, professor of geology and member of an international outreach programme committee whose name also figures on the United Nations website for his environment-related campaigns, is spearheading the campaign.

“Our aim is to make the university campus vehicle-free. We cannot do it by forcing strict rules and regulations but by following the path of self-awakening and self-enlightenment,” Ahluwalia told IANS.

In fact, coinciding with World Environment Day Thursday, they even organised an environment fortnight ending June 7.

“We are promoting the culture of walking, showing environment related films, conducting seminars, debates and discussions at various departments of the campus and in schools and offices of surrounding areas,” he said.

As part of the outreach programme, the campaigners have been approaching school students and other members of the public to take to cycling and shun motor vehicles.

The university, which has around 10,000 students, had last year tried to enforce the ‘no-vehicle on Monday’ rule but it hardly had an impact. There are many on the campus who say the ‘cycle campaign’ is impractical.

“Such initiatives are fine on paper but in real life they are quite impractical. It is difficult to commute on bicycle or by foot in this scorching heat. Moreover, if a day scholar comes from some faraway place on his vehicle then where will he park it, if vehicles are not allowed inside the campus?” said Hemant Kumar, a mass communication student at the university.

But there are other diehard supporters of the campaign too.

Shelly Walia, a professor of English, who has been cycling for the last 30 years, said: “At least those people who live inside the campus can use a bicycle or can walk to their departments. There is a lack of will. No one wants to take the initiative here.”

“We have to promote this culture here just like Cambridge and Oxford, where I had spent many years and where most people use public transport and cycles. There should be a common parking place with high parking fees for outsiders who come to the university,” added Walia.

Despite being all for cycling, geologist Ahluwalia believes man alone is not behind global warming.

“As a geologist, it is sad to hear Nobel laureates like Al Gore raise slogans that only man is behind this environmental decay,” Ahluwalia said.

“According to geology dynamics, it is a natural cycle that all glaciers and ice caps will wither away. A human being can never change the geology cycle, that is bound to happen but he can only delay this loss. A man cannot cause global warming but only accelerate or decelerate it.”

“The spirit of environment activists is right but they are themselves poorly informed on core environmental issues. We are trying to do just that through our campaign,” he added.

(Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at alkesh1983@gmail.com)

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