EMERGENCY AUTO RICKSHAW AMBULANCES SERVICE LAUNCHED IN KOCHI, INDIA TO BRING COVID RELIEF TO CITIZENS DURING INDIA’S 2ND INFECTION WAVE
India has been grappled by the second wave of the COVID pandemic since early April with the health care system at its limits and citizens turning to community networks to help find lifesaving hospital beds, medications and oxygen. This is also the case in Kochi in the Southern state of Kerala where the BMZ funded project “Integrated Urban Transport Systems for Smart Cities” (SMART-SUT) supports local transport planning. The safety of citizens using public transport during the pandemic has been one of the hot topics and SMART-SUT has extended support on physical separators, guidance on bus occupancies and the promotion of walking and cycling among others to find emergency responses and foster a green recovery.
The latest initiative is an emergency auto rickshaw ambulance service to cater to the needs of COVID patients in the city. This includes transporting them to hospitals, ensuring supply of medicines, oximeter, thermometer for them en route, and facilitating movement of medical staff to patients’ houses. This timely action is a joint initiative by the Kochi Municipal Corporation (KMC) and the Ernakulam Jilla Autorickshaw Drivers Cooperative Society Ltd. (EJADCS) who are being supported through SMART-SUT since project start. Under this initiative, 8 fully equipped auto rickshaws are being deployed as emergency vehicles or ambulances in 8 zones of Kochi Corporation area for round-the-clock (24 hour) service, operating in two shifts. 18 drivers, including one lady driver, have volunteered to service the city and its residents with their auto rickshaws. The drivers are equipped with necessary safety kits and medical equipment for the use of COVID affected patients which is supplied through SMART-SUT. The auto ambulance initiative is the coming together of KMC, EJADCS’s and GIZ’s long-standing efforts to improve the operations of auto-rickshaws in the city as a flexible mode of first and last mile connectivity for passengers, and this unique initiative marks a huge milestone in Kochi’s fight against COVID-19.
GFA leads a consortium that implements SMART-SUT together with GIZ and the Indian Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), under the umbrella of the Indo-German Green Urban Mobility Partnership. This ‘Auto ambulance’ initiative is coordinated and supported by the National Health Mission, Government of Kerala, Corona Safe Network, The Centre for Heritage, Environment and Development (C-HED), Technovia Info Solutions. Pvt. Ltd and the Kerala Motor Vehicles Department. (Photos: GIZ India)