With stress in the Karachi increasing day by day, and noise pollution being a significant contributor of the same, I for one, wouldn’t be sorry to finally bid adieu to the multicoloured little devils roaming the streets – the rickshaws! The unsilenced silencer and the smoke liberally spewing out of it, straight into one’s already twitching nose is enough to drive one literally speaking – into a pothole. However, economic conditions taken into account, rickshaws are definitely cost
We now have an alternative in the form of the CNG rickshaw or the ‘green’ rickshaw, which is much kinder on the eardrums with a mere 5% of the sound produced by its predecessor, friendlier for the environment and a boon for commuters. Major city district governments of the country had plans to impose a ban on two stroke rickshaws till the end of December 2007 but these little devils can still be seen around the city at various points.
The Qing Qi is the expanded version of the rickshaw, can always be used to squeeze in more passengers and is quite economical. Till recently, it was more often seen in smaller localities but now it can be seen on main roads in Karachi as well.
A word of caution however for the more adventurous, never squeeze in more people than you can fit in normally or you may be in for a very nasty shock. Even more important: NEVER let the driver of the motorcycle that is attached to the seats, get off if the Qing Qi is overloaded.
I and my friends currently hold a personal level record for stuffing nearly 10 people in a single Qing Qi in Lahore beating our earlier one of 5 people in a little yellow rickshaw in Karachi. While the rickshaw suffered no damage apart from several finger pointing instances that did wonders for our combined egos, we barely escaped from the Qing Qi in one piece. Unfortunately for us, the driver of the Qing Qi decided to refill his motorcycle tank with gasoline. He got off, an adventurous friend decided to hang around on the back seat and the next thing we knew, we and the Qing Qi were slowly tilting back towards what could have been a very nasty tumble. We all barely got off in time.
Coming back to the green rickshaws and their efficiency not to mention sturdiness – it will not tilt backwards), currently there are five companies manufacturing these rickshaws in Pakistan under various schemes. Each company manages to manufacture 10 – 15 rickshaws per day. Three companies
manufacture 150 CC rickshaws while the other two manufacture 175 CC and 200 CC rickshaws respectively.
Many rickshaw owners seem to prefer the 200 CC rickshaws to the rest as it has more features. It has 5 foot controlled gears instead of 4 gears and a water cooled body with a radiator which gives it more mileage as it prevents the engine from excess heat. It can be started in a number of ways by either self start or kick start.
This CNG rickshaw is available in the market for approximately Rs. 180,000
while its competitors are cheaper. This includes the amount for the equipment
to run it on diesel for the first 1000 miles.
Various schemes have emerged with the advent of the CNG rickshaws. The President’s Rozgar scheme involves Chinese rickshaws which many do not find capable enough, especially when there is more than one passenger and an upward incline. Similarly, voices have also been raised against exploitation under the Green Fund scheme which allows government officials to buy rickshaws. The Green Punjab Fund provides rickshaws under soft terms and interest free banking scheme.
On 1st August 2007, the President of All Karachi Taxi & Motor Rickshaw Owners`
Association (KTMRA) unveiled a rickshaw converted from two stroke to four
stroke (CNG) using an old Indian Bajjaj’s four stroke 175 CC engine fixed on
the old Italian rickshaw chassis. This has been termed far more durable. Good for the Indians who have been using the greener versions for a long time now. It is to be hoped that the smoke spewing devils become obsolete soon enough and we move towards a healthier environment for all.
Some information on technical points provided by Mehboob Ilahi, CNG rickshaw owner in Karachi.
Qing Qi photo courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/peterhessel/74735926/