Clearing the air
#WorldEnvironmentDay2019: Hyderabad-based software engineer Pranay Upadhyay
is beating the pollution menace by adopting greener options for his office commute,
and becoming the change that he wants to see around.
A hero is what a hero does, and by that measure, Hyderabad-based software engineer Pranay Upadhyay is undoubtedly not just a hero but a superhero, albeit without a cape.
Upadhyay, who works at a senior leadership level in a company that makes conversational Bots, started running and cycling as a hobby in 2008 and from there, he went on participating in ultra-long distance cycling and running events.
A year later, Upadhyay was blessed with a boy with special needs. He was informed about his son’s condition at the time of his birth, but as a father, he could come to terms with the fact only in 2013 when his son Naitik missed all his developmental milestones. He was distraught, but still didn’t lose hope. “As I met more people, I realized that autism is a man-made epidemic. A recent figure shows that one in every 60 kid in India is autistic. Pollution is the only thing to blame. We tell pregnant women to avoid smoking, but no advisory tells exposure to pollution is as bad as smoking. Private cars are the single largest polluter of the urban environment,” says Upadhyay with a grim voice. He started the much-needed course correction by being the change that he wanted to see around. The first step was to ditch fuel-powered vehicle for singleton commute and instead opt for a greener option. It’s been a wonderful journey ever since for him. And in these years, he has explored various ways to spice up his commute to the office that is 22 km away from his home. So, he has walked, jogged, cycled, flew on his paramotor and unicycled to office.
Individual social responsibility
The theme of this year’s World Environment Day is Air Pollution, and rightly so, because approximately seven million people worldwide die each year prematurely from air pollution, with about four million of these deaths occurring in Asia-Pacific. “Indeed, we can’t stop breathing, but we can surely do something about the quality of air that we breathe. It is now or never to do the due,” feels Upadhyay because one and all are responsible for this damage done to the environment at large and air in particular.
As a part of his the individual social responsibility, he has not only adopted greener options for his commute but has also been spreading awareness about the cause. “Everyday I ride to my office with a new message and try to make people aware that we are already late in our fight against pollution,” he says, brimming with enthusiasm. Last month, he drove around the city using a message on a placard to spread awareness.
The change is slow but steady. “I see one lesser car on the road every day,” he says on the change that he has managed to bring about. But it is not easy for him. “I always get appreciation from strangers, major challenge and discouragement come from people whom I know. Someone thinks I am doing it to save money. Many others dissuade me by saying that there is so much pollution that my cycling will not make much of a difference to the city air. But I do not give any heed to any discouragement,” quips the man of a mission to make a difference.
The solution for many of us stuck in a similar situation would be to blame the government. But he begs to differ on this popular stance. “The government has done its bit. Now it is people’s turn to fight against pollution and the first step is to curb pollution. The easiest is to give up the private car for singleton commute,” he adds. He cites that it takes a fully grown tree 38 days to undo the effect of burning one litre of petrol. So he’s happy doing his bit in clearing the air, one ride at a time, and urges others to follow suit. And those willing to buy an electric unicycle can visit www.vwheel.net. “I import a few from Korea and China for those interested in buying it. The prices are available at www.dhgate.com and www.aliexpress.com,” he says.
Advantages of an Electric Unicycle:
Higher range: 150-200 km in a single charge and more predictable range drop than other electric vehicles (EVs). In fact, electric unicycles (EUC) are four times more efficient than electric two-wheelers and 20 times better over electric four wheelers for carrying the same weight.
Lightweight: EUC weighs between 8 to 18 kg; It’s easy to carry it around like a suitcase.
Decongests our cities: It occupies as must space as fully grown human occupies while standing (decongesting city is important when you learn that 18% of population stays in Indian which has only 2.3% land share) take this hypothesis 400 sqft fits: 3 Mahindra XUVs (L: 16 ft, W: 6.5 ft, Area: 104 sqft), 4 Suzuki Swifts (L: 13.5 ft, W: 6 ft, Area: 81 sqft), 17 Enfield Bullets (L: 7.5 ft, W: 3 ft, Area: 22.5 sqft), 24 Honda Activas (L: 6.5 ft, W: 3 ft, Area: 19.5 sqft) and 110 Electric Unicycles.
Cheaper to own and maintain:
No infrastructure needed: You can charge EUC using a standard 1 amp charger at your house, in office, restaurants without complaining that the government is not building charging stations.
Provides true last mile connectivity: You can ride it, carry it in public transport, walk with it.