After decades commuting on New Delhi’s parlous roads, office worker Ashok Kumar spends more time than ever stuck in the gridlock that packs the Indian capital’s thoroughfares and pollutes the city.
The sprawling megacity of 20 million people is regularly ranked the world’s most polluted capital, with traffic exhaust a main driver of the toxic smog that permeates the skies, especially in winter.
Delhi’s patchwork public transport network struggles to cater for a booming population, with long queues snaking outside the city’s underground metro stations each evening and overloaded buses inching their way down clogged arterials.
“When I came to Delhi, the air was clean because there were hardly any cars or bikes on the roads,” Kumar told AFP while waiting for a ride home outside the city’s main bus terminal.
“But now everyone owns a vehicle.”
Kumar spends nearly four hours each day in a “gruelling journey” to and from his home on Delhi’s far southern outskirts, alternating between commuter buses, private shared taxis and rickshaws.
Even at the age of 61, Kumar is hoping to save enough money to buy his own scooter and spare himself the pain of the daily commute.