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Two Indian women to cycle 5,000 km for a cleaner earth

Suruti Rawat and Sawita Mahtav will start a trans-Himalaya expedition for women's empowerment and a pollution-free environment

This photo from January shows Kurdish women taking part in a cycling marathon in the northeastern Syrian town of Amuda in Hasakeh province to encourage women to cycle and empower them in society, as well as reduce environmental pollution in the region. Photo for representative purposes. (Photo credit: Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP)

Two women, from Bihar and Uttarakhand respectively, are about to embark on a major cycling expedition, starting at the Wagah border and ending in Arunachal Pradesh, to raise awareness for a pollution-free environment and women's empowerment.

"The Uttarakhand government is supporting us," said Suruti Rawat, one of the duo, who is from Uttarkashi district. Their ambitious journey, covering around 5,000 kilometers, will pass through eight states. The women intend to engage with the locals in the course of their expedition and speak to them about their missions. Director general (DIG) of Border Security Force Bhupinder Singh flagged off the marathon journey at the Attari-Wagah border on Tuesday.

Rawat's companion, Sawita Mahtav, told ANI, "I am from Bihar and our main motive is to keep mother earth clean and pollution-free." Together, the women plan to visit schools and colleges to speak to women and girls about their rights. "Our focus is to empower the young generation," Mahtav added.

In recent years, several people from across the world have undertaken similar expeditions. In January, Kurdish women in the northeastern Syrian town of Amuda, took part in a cycling marathon under the slogan, "I want a bicycle". Their aims was not only to encourage women to cycle and empower them to assert their rights to free movement, but also drive home a message to reduce environmental pollution in the region.

Last year, Pankaj Bisht, Sagar Dewrari and Rishabh Joshi from Nainital, Uttarakhand cycled 15,000 km, covering across 28 states and two Union Territories, to promote the message of ‘Save Earth from Pollution’. The trio are part of a cycling group from Nainital that creates awareness on social causes.

Cycling is now increasingly being explored as a sustainable form of mobility. According to a 2018 study by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), the benefits of cycling would vary from zero dependence on fossil fuels and zero emissions, to better health and affordable transportation for low-income households in India.

This study also looked at research and data from European nations. For instance, a study undertaken by the European Cyclists’ Federation in 2016 estimated that substituting 32% of the car trips in the European Union with bicycles could result in annual fuel savings of around €28 billion.

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