Shaping Sustainable Development to 2017

Upcoming GOI plans for sustainable habitat have a significant emphasis on plans/initiatives related to mass transit. Transportation and mobility infrastructure that India requires in this next orbit of growth is best exemplified by the theme of the 12th five year plan (2012-17) - “Faster, Sustainable and More Inclusive”.  

The climates changes are real and pose significant challenges. There is only one earth for human habitation and human beings cannot afford to destroy earth’s environment and its ecosystem as in the long run this will only end up endangering the basic existence of human beings on earth. We have to preserve the animal kingdom, flora, fauna and environment to ensure earth remains a viable and sustainable habitat. All nations are required to formulate plans with twin actions of mitigation and adaptation. The mitigation from climate change requires strategies for reduction of CO2 and GHG. The cost of adaptation to climate change is very high and requires different strategies. Shaping of sustainable development indeed requires a truly collaborative effort entailing not only global thought and cooperation but also focused local action.

Transportation sector has a major bearing on the manner in which sustainable habitats will be shaped up. The hitherto development path of the human civilization has typically required millions of barrel fuel to be burnt every second thus leading to an uncapped increase in carbon emissions and consequently the green house gases (GHGs). The population growth, rising income and improvement in living standards are the determining factors that will influence shape of things to come.

At national level, several programmes specifically focused at local level city development will influence the process and rate of change.  Mass Rail Transit and Bus Rapid Transit systems are bound to change the mobility scenario in next 5 years depending upon the pace of approval of the city development plans, linkage to financing and speed of execution.
National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP) mandates the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) to prepare Comprehensive Mobility Plan (CMP) for different cities under their jurisdiction and seek approval from the mission directorates of Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). Similarly responsibility to develop and implement Cities’ Clean Air Action Plan rests with the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

In conformity with UNFCC objectives, in June 2008 India enunciated the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), comprising of eight missions namely National Solar Mission, National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency, National Mission on Sustainable Habitat, National Water Mission, National Mission for Sustaining the Himalyan, Ecosystem, National Mission for a Green India, National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture, and National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change. Strangely transportation is not included in it – this despite the fact that transportation sector accounts for about 70% of carbon dioxide emissions. Clearly importance of development of mass transit is obvious as we plan long term strategic measures to contain carbon emissions intensity as also overall quantum of carbon emissions.

Some key national policy instruments relevant to the sustainable transportation domain are the National Urban Housing and Habitat Policy (NUHHP), National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP), Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), and The National Road Safety &Traffic Management Board Bill, 2010.

Approach to the Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012-17), states that “the 2011 Census also shows an increase in the urban population from 27.8 per cent in 2001 to 31.2 per cent in 2011, and it is likely to exceed 40.0 per cent by 2030. This would generate a heavy demand for better quality infrastructure in urban areas, especially water, sewerage, public transport and low cost housing. Since it takes time to create urban infrastructure, it is necessary to have a sufficiently long term focus on urban planning in the Twelfth Plan.”

Under the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-11), amongst the major 13 flagship programmes undertaken as centrally sponsored schemes,  JNNURM with Mass Rapid Transport as a key tenet has been a major thrust area with expenditure in the range of `48,485 crores (69.26% of total). This indicates both pressure on urban development and transportation in urban cities.

Mass Rail Transit (MRT) and Mass Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) are the only options to address the ever increasing pressures on mobility amidst an ever-growing population scenario in urban India. Based on actual cost of construction of Delhi Metro, the cost estimates of constructing MRT routes could be anything between `98.4 crore per km to `151.4 crore per km depending upon the time frame. Further land use pattern shift would entail policy decisions. Transport Policy of India highlights the need for “Encouraging integrated land use and transport planning in all cities so that travel distances are minimized and access to livelihoods, education, and other social needs, especially for the marginal segments of the urban population is improved”

Ahmadabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Mumbai, Nagpur, Patna, Pune and other cities are growing very fast and each of the cities may have to prepare long term plan for both MRT and BRT. Smart cities and intelligent transport systems are increasingly becoming part of the City Development Plans in India; e.g. the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) project envisages development of new industrial manufacturing hubs around 24 new world class smart cities with intelligent transport systems on this  industrial corridor. The first seven cities are likely to take shape by 2018-19 and are expected to be PPP dominated projects. Investment of over $ 90-billion will be made for construction of Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor.

Three immediate benefits of planning for Mass Rapid Transit and Bus Rapid Transit are (a) Reduction in pollution through reduction in number of vehicles on road and reduction in congestion on roads, (b) Savings in travel time through reduction on congestion on roads, and reduction in travel time for Metro passengers, and (c) Reduction in accidents thereby saving of untimely deaths. Possible fourth benefit is stress free journey with smile on the faces of the commuters.

Whether the country would be able to implement a suitable strategy for implementing smart cities intelligent transport systems through a combination of both Mass Rail Transit and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) remains to be seen. The government plans certainly seem to be leaning in that direction.

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Author: Ratnakar Gedam