India may soon get luminous highways to enhance safety, save energy

Posted on Aug 5, 2015

NEW DELHI: Some of India’s dark patches could soon get futuristic luminous highways. These highways, costing just 15-20 per cent more than regular highways, do not require any street lights and come to light on their own as a photoluminescent coating similar to glow-in-the-dark paint creates ethereal looking lines that get charged by sunlight.

The Netherlands already has such highways and India could turn to these for the largely unlit road network in the hills, a senior government official said. “It will also work well in foggy conditions and improve overall road safety. The drivers will be guided by glow-in-night lines,” said the official, who did not wish to be identified.

It costs Rs 11-15 per km to build a regular highway in the hilly areas. The luminous highways will not only help save precious energy consumed by street lights but also make the roads safer. Studies have shown that proper lighting can substantially reduce fatalities and crashes, the official said. Most accidents occur between 6 pm and 3 am, according to a government estimate.

The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) reports that 1 per cent of all electricity consumption in India goes to providing public lighting. “This will reduce the demand for lighting on highways and increase transportation safety significantly,” said Jaijit Bhattacharya, partner-cities and digital innovation at KPMG.

Manish Agarwal, leader-infrastructure at PwC India sounded a more cautious note. “Luminous highways is an innovative idea and could add to road safety. But its cost-benefit in the Indian context needs to be seen,” he said.

According to a government study, the energy consumption on public lighting will double to 13.2 (terawatt-hours) TWh by 2020 from the level in 2010. Street lights have high hours of use as they are on for over 4,000 hours per year and consume a lot of energy.

The government is also planning to make rumple strips running along the lanes mandatory to alert drivers. Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his Mann Ki Baat radio address, said that the government would soon implement a national road safety policy.

About five lakh road accidents take place every year in India in which three lakh people get injured and 1.5 lakh die.

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Why not also for streets?

There are obvious benefits of lighting up our highways by using photo-luminescence. But this splendid idea can be extended outside its current planned remit. A large reason why Indian cities are notoriously unsafe, especially for women, is their lack of proper street lighting. Stretches of darkness mean less people on the streets which, in turn, means more chance of miscreants working under the cover of darkness. Luminous roads can well be a low-cost supplement – not an alternative – for our dark cities and towns.

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