Sustainable Mobility to Prevent Cities From Turning Toxic Cocktails

‘If you cannot tackle transportation, you cannot tackle climate change’

Screenshot 2016-05-25 18.39.20

“Building more roads to prevent congestion is like a fat man loosening his belt to prevent obesity” said the popular urban planning specialist Lewis Mumford in one of his 1955 article.

These words of great wisdom hold true even more so in today’s day and age when private vehicles are looming large not just on roads but people’s lives as they slowly but steadily continue to wreak havoc on the environment and eventually climate.

Talking of smart cities and smart governance roadmap, sustainable mobility can be a game changer in stabilising climate change.

With initiatives by both private players and the government to build a robust network of green public transport across India, expectations are that they will eventually curb the number of private vehicles on the road. This will thereby help cut on the ever increasing carbon emissions, specially now that the capital city of Delhi has been ranked among the top most polluted city in the world in fact labelled by some as a ‘toxic cocktail’!

Anoop Gupta – Director Electrical, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has cited a ray of hope with the extensive and most efficient metro network in the city which carries 2.7 million passengers daily since it’s launch to the public in 2002. “We have taken 0.4 million vehicles off road on a daily basis and now with the third phase launching soon, the figure is expected to reach 1 million. This will lead to less air pollution and an improved air quality”, said Gupta. He goes on to add that this isn’t where they stop, “we are going to introduce electric buses on an elevated Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) for last mile connectivity for people to reach their destination and for energy efficiency too”.

And now the landmark partnership of DMRC with US Green Building Council (USGBC) for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified new and existing metro stations will lead the way to their commitment in sustainable design, construction and operation of mass rapid transit system that will change the lives of millions of passengers for the better.

“This partnership is path breaking in public transport in a country like India where people mostly use private vehicles. This will bring about a green movement into the real lives of public and now with LEED, further steps will be taken to ensure people’s wellbeing with improved indoor air quality even while they travel”, said a rightly optimistic Mr Gupta.

Satish Kumar – Former Director Electrical, DMRC enlightened us with a fact that further defended the case of metros in being the best transport system when it comes to emitting carbon to the minimum, “metros use one fifth energy per passenger compared to transport on road and creates no air or noise pollution.”

Similar thoughts were echoed by Harsh Dhingra – Chief Country Representative, Bombardier Transportation India, saying metros are the most energy efficient compared to any other mode of transport and added “Big cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata should go for heavy conventional metro and for smaller cities, they can adopt alternative transit systems already running worldwide like light weight metros, monorails, electric buses to trams for decongestion of roads and better air quality. The challenge will be in the brownfield projects in smart cities but in the greenfield projects, planning has to be done in a very holistic way and yes green technology initiatives like LEED certification by Delhi metro should also be adopted by other cities as well for minimum carbon footprint.”

Sanjay Bhatia – Head Marketing (Institutional Sales), Tata Motors advocated Bus Rapid Transit System at the same conclave and said, “BRTS is in itself an energy efficient concept and one bus uses energy equal to 100 cars on the road. Besides electric, hybrid buses will also be launched soon which will further improve fuel efficiency.”

Apart from Delhi, the other Indian cities which currently have operational mass rapid transit systems are Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Jaipur. Soon more cities will be included in the plan while some like Hyderabad, Kochi and Lucknow are already under construction.

Steering the other direction on the globe, a report by FactorCO2 discussed at the recent and the iconic Paris COP21 summit, revealed some startling facts. The United States contributes up 23% of total global transport emissions while the European Union and China make up almost 10% each, all of them together making nearly half of the world’s transport emissions.

In the first week of COP21, eight of the world’s largest multilateral development banks promised to beef up their existing financing commitment for low carbon transport solutions and to continue with their commitment of providing  $175 billion for transport projects designed to reduce emissions and strengthen resilience to climate change by 2022.

A key takeaway from the Paris climate change convention is that international communities must address climate change by shifting focus to the urban transport sector as well and etch out a low carbon pathway with a solid action plan considering almost 60% of world’s population is expected to live in cities by 2030.

A remarkable example of energy efficient mobility is the Guangzhou’s rapid transit system in China that helped save 86,000 tons of CO2 emissions each year in a decade from its launch in 2010. There were also operational savings of $14 million annually while keeping it affordable to public for more than 300,000 low income residents.

Other best practices from around the world we should take lessons from are cities like Vienna which has more than 350 hybrid or natural gas run vehicles on it’s roads and energy efficient high ted scooters or segways for public mobility, Barcelona which encourages electric vehicles and has several electric charging points and even Paris for it’s successful bike sharing program velib and now the electric vehicle autolib.

A critical realisation for national governments should be that sustainable transport is a boon not just to the environment but also in being pocket friendly to the citizens and saving costs to the exchequer which comes automatically by cutting down on energy like electricity and water. In the efforts to shape a well structured climate policy, the transport sector must be empowered at a global, regional, national and local level.

Aptly summing it up in the words of Yvo de Boer – Former Executive Secretary of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change“If you cannot tackle transportation, you cannot tackle climate change.” 

Published by Geetanjali Prasad

For a decade or so, I worked as a television news reporter, producer and anchor and dabbled in genres like entertainment, business, real estate, sports and travel for different television channels. Currently since the last five years, I am taking care of the subject of climate change and green buildings by visual storytelling through digital platforms for an American organisation. I have started this blog purely for love of writing and pursuit of extraordinary stories (as the name suggests) by looking for people who have done immensely inspiring work or overcame situations that demanded exceptional grit and determination. I want to document and share these stories with the world in the hope that it motivates more people including me to be just a little kinder to everything and everyone (including animals & environment) around us, a bit more fearless to fight for what is right and the endurance to achieve what we envision.

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