Are Cities Ready For Green Ride?

Indian cities are becoming worse in terms of pollution. The Centre is investing in many green mobility options to cut the emission and make our cities safer to breathe

Last year when the Delhi government initiated the odd-even drive, the move was aimed to remove pollution and unclog the city traffic, however the move failed on both accounts. A report submitted by a panel suggested that the city which saw a substantial increase in number of two wheelers and four wheelers, the residents of satellite towns did not shift to car-pooling or public transport and rather made alternate arrangements which saw only marginal decrease in the number of vehicles. Delhi saw one of the worst smog during Diwali and earned the dubious distinction of being one of the five most polluted cities in the world, forcing closing of schools.

Earlier this month Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said restrictions such as road rationing or congestion charge do not work and the focus will be on improving public transport and green mobility.

Alarming Pollution Levels

Even as India gears up to go the smart cities way, a World Bank report depicts a very grim picture of the urban space in India. For example Delhi has three times higher air pollution than Beijing, making it world’s most polluted city. Delhi’s measured PM2.5 level of around 120 micrograms per cubic metre is 12 times WHO’s suggested guideline for PM2.5, which is posing huge health risk causing premature death and pulmonary disease.

The number of private vehicles have substantially increased in last few years which is also contributing substantially to the air pollution. According to the latest data, 14 of Indian cities feature in the list of 30 most polluted cities in the world, making it dangerous to breath in the air. That calls for renewed focus on green mobility option for our cities.

Green Urban Mobility Scheme

Last month Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu announced a new green urban mobility scheme to promote non-motorized transport system with a central assistance of Rs.48,000 crore.

“In the absence of adequate public transport in Tier-I and Tier-II cities, the use of motorised private vehicles is increasing. In six large cities of India — Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Hyderabad —the growth of vehicles is eight times that of human population. This is not good for the country,” Naidu said, while announcing the scheme.

“We are exploring the possibility of bringing out a Green Urban Mobility Scheme, to promote urban mobility initiatives other than metro rail projects. This scheme will cover sustainable projects like footpaths, cycle-tracks, public-bike sharing, bus rapid transit systems, intelligent transport systems and urban freight management,” the minister said.

This scheme is being considered for implementation in cities each with a population of five lakhs and above and all capital cities. The government has started preparing a roadmap for building 8,000 km of pavements and laying more cycle tracks in 106 cities in the next five years to promote walking and cycling and promotion of hybrid and electric vehicles to reduce carbon footprint in urban areas.

The urban development ministry targets laying 1,300km bus rapid transit (BRT) corridors with dedicated fast lanes for buses, set up 500 new bus depots and promote use of electric and hybrid vehicles under Green Transport Scheme which will benefit about 22 crore urban population.

The Centre will set up National Green Urban Mobility Fund (NGUMF), which will channelise 60 per cent funds from central government and other agencies to cities covered under this scheme and the rest 32,000 crore will come from states.

Considering that the scheme won’t be successful unless cities have necessary rules and regulations in place, so to enable cities to get financial incentive from Centre, the states are required to have and implement a parking policy, adopt street vendor regulation norms, have a policy to prevent encroachments and also have an urban transport fund. The central government is also promoting transit based development so that one can walk to their nearest available public transport.

Public Bike Sharing

Many smart cities have initiated on their own to promote green mode of non-motorized transport. One project worth mentioning here is the public bicycle sharing project of Bhubaneswar. Bhubaneswar Smart City Limited (BSCL), the implementing agency of the smart city, will create 50 bicycle stations at select locations across the city, with technical assistance from Germany. In the first phase around 1,000 bicycles will be kept at 50 locations, enabling riders to hire them. Each bicycle will have an unique barcode number for identification. People will have to submit their identity proofs to rent bicycle after payment of a nominal fee, which is yet to be decided. The city is creating dedicated cycling tracks to making cycling trendy and enjoyable.

According to the BDA, Germany will provide technical guidance to create 120-km-long dedicated cycle tracks in the city for smooth ride. “We need to have dedicated corridors so that cyclists are not obstructed by vehicular traffic. The city is also looking at using e-rickshaw, which can be used for the last minute connectivity.

Cycle sharing is a global trend. At present, more than 700 cities across the globe have their own cycle-sharing systems, and the numbers are just increasing. The largest systems are in China, in cities such as Hangzhou and Shanghai. Among the European cities, Paris, Copenhagen Barcelona, and among US cities, Washington, D.C New York have successful bike sharing system.

JLL India’s Strategic Consulting team has advised a number Urban Local Bodies on implementation strategies for cycle sharing systems, which have brought in numerous benefits such as reduced traffic congestion, vehicle emissions and demand for motor vehicle parking for cities. Moreover, this will also extend the health and wellness benefits of bicycling to users.

Electric Vehicle

Promoting the use of electric vehicles and e-rickshaw can go a long way in reducing the pollution from our cities. With American EV maker Tesla planning to debut in India and home-grown M&M working for range of electric cars future of electric vehicles looks exciting. The government is readying a scheme where commercial EVs may not be required to get permits, which are costly and time consuming, to help boost electric mobility. Mahindra Electric, Ola and the government are partnering to introduce a fleet of 300 electric cars in Nagpur to test the feasibility of e-taxis in India. This is a pilot project and if the project is successful in Nagpur, it can be implemented in other cities as well.