Subh-e-Nau Magazine

Sustainable Transportation: Reviving Mass Transit and Cycling in Pakistan

Given the rising challenges of rapid urbanization, population growth and associated energy consumption which involves vehicular emissions via fossil fuel usage, sustainable transport in Pakistan must include a carefully planned restoration of mass transit and cycling across Pakistan.     

Alina Mushtaq is a 23 years old student who commutes to reach university campus in Islamabad every day. “I’ve been using RASAI shuttle service to reach my destination for past 2 months”, says Alina who had to choose between expensive on-demand taxi service or uncomfortable van service before switching to this smart shuttle service. She says, “It isn’t just relatively inexpensive but I also feel much secure in a shared ride than travelling alone in a cab”. RASAI is a smart ridesharing system developed by a young transportation engineer Hassam Ud-din.
RASAI is a real-time ridesharing platform. It is different from Uber or Careem, the on-demand taxi service. Ridesharing or Carpooling falls between public transport and taxicab service. Islamabad based startup has recently been launched in the twin cities and is expected to be available soon in other cities. The startup aims to provide safe and reliable ridesharing service to help all those commuters who rely on public transport to reach their destinations every day. This eco-friendly startup has won UN’s Asia Pacific Low Carbon Lifestyle Challenge earlier this year.
Ahmed is another university student who chose to stay in NUST campus hostel to minimize commuting time. Nonetheless, the school building is 15 minutes’ walk away from the hostel with no short distance commuting options available until now. “I had to walk or ask a friend with a car or motorbike to drop me off at the campus building before CYKIQ was launched”, says Ahmed. “But now I can ride a bicycle to move around the entire campus at nominal charges by using a smartphone app. Cycling not only saves my time but it also help me stay fit and healthy”, he added. CYKIQ is smart bicycle sharing network launched by a group of young entrepreneurs at NUST (National University of Sciences and Technology). The startup is aimed to revive cycling culture in the country.

Dismal State of Urban Mass Transit

Public transport is one of the several neglected sectors in Pakistan requires urgent attention. Karachi, the megacity had a much better urban mass transit system till 1970s than it has today. The ‘city of lights’ had light trams, Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) and city buses of Karachi Transport Corporation (KTC) plying on different routes. The trams of British Indian era were closed down in 1975, followed by KTC and KCR in 1997 and 1999 respectively. The Sindh government has been promising to revive Karachi Circular Railway for past 2 decades but it never came to life and there is no hope for Karachi to get a better mass transit system in near future. The vacuum left by KCR and KTC is filled by unregulated mini-buses and dangerous motorcycle Rickshaws, commonly known as ‘Qingqis’.
Islamabad is also facing the same problem. The federal capital has no city bus service except for one Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) metro line. Another BRT line is still under construction which was designed to connect Islamabad International Airport to the city. “A cheap Metro bus ride becomes really expensive when you have to spend 150 Rupees to reach the station”, says university student Alina when asked about why Metro isn’t her preferred choice of commuting. The previous government had planned to launch Metro Feeder Buses for the Twin Cities but they failed to deliver on their promise.
People of KPK are also desperately waiting for long awaited ‘TransPeshawar’ in a city with no mass transit system. However, the situation improved a little bit after introduction of 200 ‘Speedo’ (Metro Feeder) Buses in Lahore. Orange Line Metro Train may also ease up traffic congestion in the capital of Punjab.
All of these transportation challenges are partly due to and in the wake of rapid urbanization and associated population explosion, especially in our cities. It is expected that by 2030, more than half of the population to become urban from the rural regions of the country which speaks clearly to the rising population dynamics in our cities and associated transportation needs in the coming years.
Lack of adequate urban mass transit system is causing severe traffic congestion in megacities as people are left with no better commuting options other than driving or riding a motorcycle to their schools and workplaces. The results of ever increasing private vehicles are disastrous; air pollution levels in all major metropolises have reached dangerously high levels, traffic jams are irking commuters and even emergency vehicles cannot respond to emergencies on time. Vehicular emissions are one of the main sources of smog which has become a serious health and safety hazard in Pakistan.

Where all the bicycles have gone?

Bicycles used to be a preferred choice of short distance commuting in the cities of Pakistan until late 1990s when motorbikes began to replace them. Now it is really hard to spot a bicycle in a city like Karachi, Lahore or Islamabad. Where developed countries are building more bicycle lanes and encouraging people to use eco-friendly 2-wheelers, we are doing the opposite. Unfortunately, cycling is dead in Pakistan. But what made them disappear from our streets in such a short time period? Ans Shahzad, the operations manager CYKIQ says, “As people got motorized vehicles for short distance commuting, they began to ditch their bicycles. Motorcycle rickshaws and cheaper motorbikes are responsible for the death of bicycles in Pakistan.” But Shahzad is among few optimist eco-friendly citizens who want to bring cycling culture back in Pakistan. “We launched CYKIQ because a bicycle is a practical and healthier commuting option. Anyone can ride a bicycle with very little training required. Unlike a motorbike, one doesn’t need to get a drivers’ licence to start riding”, he says. “We can make our country a cycling nation with the help of better policies and public awareness”, he added.
However, NUST student Ahmed who uses smart bicycle sharing network to move around the campus is not ready to take his bike on public roads. “I feel safe when riding a bicycle inside the campus but this is not the case for rest of Islamabad”, he said. “I can start riding a bicycle on Kashmir highway only when they build a separate bicycle lane as I’m scared to be run over by a speeding vehicle”, he added. Capital Development Authority (CDA) has built a bicycle only lane in F sector but it is not enough for the Capital to go cycling.
We can look to other regions in the world where such issues are being addressed in an innovative manner. In Europe, “Cycling Superhighways” a new way of safe, healthy and eco-friendly commuting are being constructed. Someone riding a bicycle to work is usually called a ‘poor/low-income class’ person in Pakistan but they call him/her a ‘socially responsible citizen’ in Europe. This is why now their governments are investing in safe cycling highways for long distance commuting on a 2-wheeler in Europe and other developed nations.
Belgium has planned a bike freeways network of around 120 routes, connecting all Flemish cities. As of 2018, around 1500 km out of 2400 km signal free bike freeway network is completed making Belgium one of the leading cycling nations in European Union.
Breda –  Etten-Leur  was the first cycling route inaugurated in 2004 in Netherlands. Now several bicycle superhighways have been developed in the country’s Arnhem-Nijmegen region. RijnWaalpad is a state-of-the art cycling infrastructure in the region.
Denmark is a country where you can go everywhere on a bicycle. It has a network of high speed cycle tracks connecting the suburban areas of Copenhagen with the city centre. They have planned to build 45 more routes by end of 2021 in the country.
Germany is a home to famous high-tech automobile brands but they are switching to bicycles and mass transit for daily commuting. A 100 km long Duisburg – Hamm cycle route has been planned, with first phase completed in 2015. They have utilized a defunct railway line to build this bicycle highway.
Although United Kingdom is not the best country for cycling but they still have several cycle superhighways operational in London. They are also planning to build more to catch up with their cycle friendly neighbour countries in the continent.

What should we do to revive cycling and mass transit?

In 2010, Pakistan ranked 160th with only 18 cars per 1000 citizens in the list of 193 countries. Only 6.4% citizens own a car, van or an SUV, while 34% own a motorcycle. There is a huge potential for switching commuters to public transportation by improving mass transit and developing safe bicycle only lanes in megacities. Here is what we should do to introduce sustainable transportation in the country:
  • Urban Transit Buses for all cities: Before we plan more mega mass transit project, we should invest in reviving cost-effective comfortable city bus service which can be plied on existing roads with very little infrastructure modification required. The bus network should cover all major routes in the city offering a safe, comfortable and reliable commuting option. Given the high demand due to population and demands, the government should launch city bus service project in Islamabad-Rawalpindi and Karachi first, which can be replicated in other cities after success. The buses of different sizes may be used as per ridership rate and road space available on specific routes.
  • Bus and Cycle Only Lanes: Building a bicycle lane on existing roads is more cost-effective than a BRT or Light Rail Transit lines. Most of the bicycle enthusiasts do not go cycling because of safety concerns. With bike only lanes developed, they would prefer to ride a bicycle for commuting. Similarly, a Bus Only lane can also ensure smooth running of urban bus service in the city. Moreover, the bus lane can also be accessed by emergency vehicles.
  • Park and Ride Facilities: It may not be possible to ply buses on all routes with very low ridership rate. Park and Ride is what makes it possible for suburban dwellers to drive to the nearest metro station, park their vehicles in safe place and then take a ride to ease off traffic congestion in peak hours while saving money at the same time. These facilities can be built near:
a) Metro stations to let motorists catch a bus/train ride after parking their vehicles
b) Outside city centres giving the motorists a choice to ride a bus shuttle service or grab a rental bicycle to reach their destination in areas with severe traffic jams
  • Bike racks on buses: Bicycle carrying racks are very common in North America where bike rental networks are not as popular as they are in Europe. Any city bus can be equipped with these racks after little modification. This model works the best for those who do not rent but owns a bicycle and use it for shorter commutes between bus stops and their home/office.
  • Bike rental networks: CYKIQ is a very good and successful example of how this kind of business can actually survive in Pakistan. The government should encourage more young entrepreneurs to launch similar startups all over the country. Bike sharing network allows a commuter to ride a bicycle to reach his/her destination and then park it so another commuter can use it again.
  • Encourage ridesharing/carpooling: All schools and offices should encourage their students/employees to go carpooling. There is a room for at least 3 passengers in any small hatchback or a sedan. If 100 lone drivers choose to carpool, they can reduce 200 cars from already stressed road during peak hours. RASAI, a ridesharing platform, is another example of eco-friendly commuting option. The government should facilitate such kinds of business models to ease off traffic congestions from urban roads.
  • Metered parking in city centres: Free and unregulated parking is another reason behind traffic congestion in city centres. A metered parking mechanism can discourage motorists to enter severely congested roads and they would prefer riding a bike or bus after parking their vehicles in park and ride facilities. The government also needs to be more stringent against encroachments and illegal parking.
  • Plan big for Megacities: The mega mass transit projects are often criticised for being more expensive but we do need them when all other options do not seem to work. Karachi is a megacity with dire need of mass transit lines. Before planning another metro bus line, it is more important to revive long awaited Karachi Circular Railway and replace all old rusty minibuses and 3-wheelers by modern air-conditioned city buses.
Given the rising population across our urban centres and rapidly increasing demands, it is imperative that we resort to sustainable transport strategies which bring back mass transit and bicycling in a most efficient form to deal with the mobility challenges of today and the future.

Cycling Facts:

  • The first two-wheeler was invented by a German man Karl von Drais in 1817. The machine had no pedals; they called it ‘Dandy Horse’. It was propelled by shuffling the rider’s feet against the ground.
  • The word “bicycle” was unknown until the 1860s.
  • 15 bicycles takes up the same space that one car occupies.
  • Amsterdam (Netherlands) is known as the world’s bicycle capita. About 63% of the city’s population use their bikes for daily commutes.
  • On average, you can burn around 100 calories cycling for 20 minutes at a lower speed of 20 km/hour.

Mass Transit Facts:

  • The word ‘omnibus’ was first introduced in English in 1829. ‘Bus’ first appeared in 1832
  • Among top ten cities with highest subway ridership rate, Beijing tops with 3.410 billion Chinese commuters riding the subway system every year. Following them is Tokyo (Japan), Seoul (South Korea), Shanghai (China), Moscow (Russia), Guangzhou (China), New York City (USA), Mexico City (Mexico), Hong Kong and Paris (France).
Writers: Sultan Kiani / Prof. Farrukh Chishtie

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Subh-e-Nau Ladies National Tennis Tournament 2018

An exclusive tennis tournament for women was hosted in the last week of September 2018, which was well attended by fans from all walks of life. 

Women sports are largely neglected in Pakistan and there are very few opportunities for women players to excel in competitive events. Subh-e-Nau has always been supportive of involving women in mainstream sports activities and providing them equal opportunities. Since Subh-e-Nau is involved in promotion of tennis at all levels for more than two decades now, it has always given preference to female players in its events, coaching camps and other tennis related activities. In Pakistan, there are very few national level tennis events where women category is part of the activity. Subh-e-Nau is the only tennis event organizer in national circuit which has hosted so exclusive ladies tennis events in Pakistan for last many years. Continuing its tradition, SN hosted SN Ladies National Tennis Tournament in last week of September 2018 featuring top female players from all over the country.
Subh-e-Nau Ladies National Tennis Tournament was announced in the second week of the September 2018 and it received overwhelming response from circles of tennis. Top ranked women players featured in this 5 days long tennis gala. The tournament held at hard courts of Pakistan Sports Board Islamabad from 23rd to 27th September 2018. Initially, Subh-e-Nau announced 3 categories for this event which included Ladies Singles, Ladies Doubles and Girls U-18. On repeated requests from parents and media persons, SN Chairperson announced to include Girls U-14, Girls U-10 and Media Singles as well to give more color to the event. Chairperson SN Shahida Kausar Farooq appointed Mahvish Chishtie as director of the tournament while Shahzad Akhtar Alvi was appointed Tournament Referee. Draws of the tournament were held on Saturday 22nd September at event venue. Organizers had to scrap Girls U-18 category due to less number of entries. Sarah Mansoor was the top seed player for the tournament while Sarah Mahboob remained number two as per Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) rankings.
Sara Mansoor and Sarah Mahboob faced no noted resistance from their respective opponents in the tournament before they qualify for final of Ladies Singles. Similarly, Ladies Doubles category, Sarah Mahboob pairing with Meheq Khokhar defeated Sara Mansoor and Mahvish Chishtie in final. Both the pairs shown their experience, however, victory belonged to Sarah and Meheq for their better play. This category also received low number of entries.
In Girls U-14 and U-10, young girls shown their commitment to the game and played tennis according to best of their skills and knowledge. Girls U-14 title went to Sheeza Sajid where she defeated her opponent Fatima Ali Raja after a good show. Girls U-10 title went to Zainab Ali with victory over Esha Zia.
Media Singles category was introduced in the event for the media persons to give them exposure and knowledge of the game. Journalists who are members of Rawalpindi Islamabad Sports Journalists Association (RISJA) took part in this category’s matches. More than 20 journalists sent their entries in this category. Shah Khalid, Neelum Arshad, Afzal Javed and Arif Mehmood made it to Semifinals and Final was played between Afzal and Arif. Arif Mehmood played well to defeat Afzal Javed to claim the title of this category.
Ladies Singles final was played between Sara Mansoor and Sarah Mahboob on Thursday 27th September. Both players played up to their expectations and reputation and spectators enjoyed their play well. Sarah Mahboob proved to be the better player in the end as she clinched title by winning the final match in straight sets. Sarah Mahboob is a seasoned player who is Pakistan’s national circuit for last many years and have won a number of national tennis title as well. She has been a regular part of Subh-e-Nau’s tennis activities as well and have been the winner of many national titles of SN events prior to this tournament as well.
Dr. Fehmida Mirza, Federal Minister for Interprovincial Coordination (IPC) was the Chief Guest during prize Distribution Ceremony held after Ladies Singles final. She distributed shields certificates and mementoes among players. A total of 2 hundred 50 thousand rupees were distributed as prize money among players
Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Fehmida Mirza appreciated Subh-e-Nau for holding exclusive Ladies Tennis event and said that she was impressed with SN bearing the flag of women tennis in Pakistan. She said that she has been a sports person herself and wants to give her best to the cause during her tenure. Dr. Fehmida Mirza said that she was impressed by the categories of Girls U10 and U-14as involving kids in healthy activities will give them encouragement to go further in coming life. She said that sports are essential for everyone especially for females and we need to promote women sports through all means of media and sponsorship. She said that we need to build infrastructure for sports and revive our sports culture at school levels. She appealed corporate sector to come forward and have its share in sports promotion. Federal Minister also said that as sports are essential for us and our coming generations, clean environment is also equally important for them. She said that we need to plant more trees for cleaner and greener environment.
Chairperson Subh-e-nau Shahida Kausar Farooq thanked the Chief Guest, players, officials and sponsors for this successful event. She said that we need to bring our children to sports to give them healthy lives. She said that children should not be allowed to use gadgets in such early ages that they are unable to perform in practical lives. She said that we need more sponsors to continue our efforts. After the closing ceremony, Federal Minister Dr. Fehmida Mirza planted a citrus tree with players and officials. Mr. Taimur Shah, Head Public Sector Deposit North Bank of Punjab, Senator Humayun Saifullah and others also attended the closing ceremony.
Writer: Abdul Aleem Chaudhary

Ladies Tennis Tournament 2018 Pictures

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How to Reduce Health and Safety Hazards of Gardening

Gardening is a great relaxing hobby but requires some key safety considerations.  

Gardening not only provides you nutritious organic vegetables, fruits and beautiful flowers but gardening also offers a good number of health benefits. The activity has been proven to lower blood pressure, burn extra calories, and even improve your mental health. However, there are some potential hazards which can create life threating situations if you are not being careful. Here is a quick guide how to stay safe and healthy while working in a garden.
  1. Not all bacteria are your friends: There are millions of bacteria lurking in soil, most of which are actually helpful as they improve soil quality and boost plants growth. However, some dangerous pathogenic bacteria and fungi also exist in the soil with potential to cause you serious harm when they enter the human body. These nasty bacteria and fungi can cause Sepsis, Tetanus, Legionellosis and Rose gardener’s disease. So you must wear protective gear before digging into soil. A nice and durable pair of gloves costs around 700 to 1000 Rupees. It is also advisable to wear waterproof rubber shoes or you can use an old pair of shoes to protect your feet. Keep yourself vaccinated, a Tdap booster (Tetanus Diphtheria Vaccine) is recommended once every 10 years for all healthy adults. Consult your physician to see when you may need a vaccine.
  1. Pollen Allergy and Pesticides: Some people have pollen allergy and toxic pesticides are harmful for all. If you are a Hay Fever sufferer, always prefer planting insect-pollinated flowers and trees. Wind-pollinated plants are notoriously known for exacerbating respiratory allergies because they make a lot of pollen. Wear a pollen facemask and change your clothes right after you are done with gardening. You can choose to skip gardening on the days when pollen count increases to dangerously high levels. Use eco-friendly organic pesticides as they are least harmful for environment and human health. Synthetic pesticides should only be used as a last resort. Always wear protective gloves, face shield and shoes before spraying or ask a professional gardener for help. 
  1. Be careful with Sharp Tools: Gardening tools like shovels, axes, forks and cutters can cause serious injuries if you do not use them with caution. Be very careful with lawn mower and other machines in your garden. Do not let your small children play with them until they are old enough to safely use sharp tools under your supervision. Small injuries are the part of work so it is always a good idea to keep a first aid box accessible at home. Do not work with injured hands as dirt can infect the wounds. 
  1. Mosquito Bite Prevention: Moist garden soil is a perfect place for mosquitos to thrive. An infected mosquito bite can transmit Dengue, Malaria and Zika Virus into humans. Cover your body; wear long sleeve shirt, a full length trouser and shoes. Apply a good quality skin-friendly insect repellant lotion on your neck, face and other exposed body parts. Be sure to drain your plant pots everyday as stagnant water provides ideal conditions for mosquito breeding. Some of the plants like Basil, Rosemary and Peppermint are natural mosquito repellants. Plant them in your garden and keep these little bloody monsters at bay! 
  1. Watch Out for Venomous Animals: While wearing proper clothes and insect repellant will keep you safe from small insect bites, you still need to be careful with larger poisonous and toxic animals hiding in your garden. Venomous snakes, scorpions and spiders usually do not bite unless they feel threatened but they are hard to spot. This is because they are so well camouflaged, we accidentally pick up or touch them and this is when they attack. Always be careful when picking up or flipping over pots, tools, leaves or other items where these dangerous animals may be resting. Avoid gardening after sun sets, working in a dark garden increases the risk of snake, spider or scorpion bite. Teach your children not to touch any animals with bare hands. A venomous snake could be mistaken for a harmless frog or a non-venomous lizard.
Important! Snake bite is a medical emergency. Immediately call emergency helpline 1122 or rush to the nearest hospital even if you believe that you are bitten by a non-venomous snake.
  1. Do not Risk Heatstroke: Working long hours in garden can be exhausting. Heat and dehydration can easily trigger heatstroke. Stay hydrated, do not use carbonated and energy drinks and take frequent breaks. Always cover your head, apply sunscreen on exposed parts of your body and do not work too hard when it gets too hot. Wait till afternoon when temperature drops to a more bearable level. Watch out for early signs of dehydration. Stop working and take rest if you feel hot, dizzy and stop sweating. A heatstroke can turn deadly if you ignore the early signs and lose consciousness.
Writer: Sultan Kiani
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