Innovation That Matters

India is known for its rickshaws, but what is new is the idea of covering the vehicles roof with cooling plants | Photo source Marwan Ahmed on Unsplash

A rooftop garden helps keep rickshaw cool

Mobility & Transport

A rickshaw driver in New Delhi is using plants to keep his rickshaw cool

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Spotted: There are around 95,000 registered auto-rickshaws in New Delhi. The colourful vehicles tend to blend in to the landscape. But one vehicle stands out – the rickshaw owned by Mahendra Kumar. The rickshaw driver has installed a garden on the vehicle’s roof – planted with more than 20 types of plants.

Kumar is hoping that the mobile rooftop garden will help keep the interior of his vehicle cool. In fact, he came up with the idea two years ago, during the peak of the summer season. Due to global warming, temperatures in New Delhi have been rising, at times exceeding 45 degrees Celsius, and last year saw India’s highest average maximum temperatures in 122 years. Against this backdrop, any relief would be welcome.

To create his garden, Kumar first laid a thick sack onto the rickshaw roof as a base, then added soil and seeds. He simply waters the plants from a bottle a few times a day. Not only does the garden provide a natural cooling effect, but it also gives residents a nice break from New Delhi’s ubiquitous concrete.

Indian taxi drivers are not the only ones who have converted cabs to gardens. At the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, when tourism in Thailand had collapsed, the Ratchapruk Taxi Cooperative in Bangkok began growing vegetables on the roofs of idled taxi cabs, and farmed frogs in piles of abandoned car tyres. The vegetables and frogs helped to feed out-of-work drivers and the surplus was sold for extra income.

As the world heats up, innovative ideas like these are going to be important in mitigating the danger. Some other ideas for mitigating the heat island effect that we have seen recently include a platform that assesses urban heat island effects and designs solutions and the use of living roofs on large buildings. 

Written By: Lisa Magloff

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