It was a beautiful morning when I set off by car to experience the port city of Vishakhapattnam, Andhra Pradesh. Set all along the sea, the drive along the lovely and clean road itself was a serene and joyful one. It was a dawn to remember and little did I know that I would recall it for totally different reasons.
Since it was still near dawn, I was delighted by the prospect of having very few other cars cross paths with me. Somewhere along the road, it struck as odd that I was driving the only car along the stretch. Surely there would be some other enthusiasts who would like to take in the glorious morning hours and such a peaceful drive!
My questions were answered when a well-built 40-year-old stopped in his running track and proceeded to stop me. I was quite shocked to see the evident anger on his face. When I stopped, fearfully, to ask how I had offended him, he told me that the stretch of road was closed for cars between 5.30 and 7.30 in the morning, as the government was encouraging people to exercise in fresh air. I had been driving blissfully along a vehicle free zone!
Al my plans of serene driving and speeding were brought to a halt as I started to notice the number of people running, exercising and practicing yoga by the road. My car was the only source of poison in this paradise. I also noticed the anger in everybody’s eyes as I quickly reversed to find the shortest way out of the situation.
I truly appreciate this initiative by the government to promote well-being by being close to nature and a sustainable alternative. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 11 highlights the importance of creating sustainable cities and communities; and stresses on the importance decreasing environmental impact of cities, and talks about provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities. It was refreshing to see the government creating such spaces for the citizens, and the citizens themselves being vocal about their right to such car-free zones in the city. No doubt the city was ranked among the top 5 in the recently published Swachh Sarvekshan (Cleanliness Study) for Indian cities, 2017.
The experience made me acutely aware of the carbon footprints we leave behind during our travels and grateful that the people of Vizag were kind, despite the situation, and let me off with a just warning.
Read the entire experience on my blog. Write to Alpaviram at ekalpaviram[@]gmail.com for responsible travel experiences across the country.
– Text and Images by Parima Sharma