Following the roll-out of its two infrastructure missions Smart Cities and AMRUT, the Union government is set to announce a Rs 80,000 crore Green Mobility Scheme in more than 100 cities across the country. The scheme will fund mass transit projects, non-motorised modes of transportation, greater pedestrianisation, the use of non-fossil fuels, and creation of last mile connectivity.
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The scheme marks a conscious policy shift away from allowing proliferation of private cars to promoting use of greener modes of public transport. It will include all cities with a population above five lakh and all state capitals — 100 plus cities with a total population of 22 crore which accounts for more than half the country’s urban population. The Ministry of Urban Development circulated a draft of the five-year long scheme to all state governments this week.
The draft states the expected outcome of the scheme as encouraging non-motorised transport through 8,000 kms of footpaths and cycling infrastructure. The bike-sharing project is proposed to involve more than 73,000 public cycles. The scheme explores Bus Rapid Transport System (BRTS), that provides bus transport through dedicated lanes, as a major mass transit mode. It aims at the creation of 1,300 km of BRT network with 500 plus terminals across 28 cities. In addition to these, the scheme looks at developing more intermediate public transport for last mile connectivity such as autos and buses, use of sustainable vehicles such as electric ones and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
The draft mentions that a key element for cities to turn into engines of economic growth is mobility. However, it states that there is nothing desirable about the current growth trend in this area which has seen an increase in private vehicles resulting in a corresponding rise in congestion, poor air quality and more fatalities. There has been a 10 per cent annual increase in registered motor vehicles in India in the past decade while since 1951, it has grown 472 times. In terms of its impact on air quality, a 2016 World Health Organization study shows that ten of the top twenty most polluted cities in the world are in India signalling an increased health risk for those living in these cities.
“Both our existing urban infrastructure missions — Smart Cirties and AMRUT — have urban mobility as one of its many component. There was a need to have a dedicated policy that will both meets the needs of a fast-accelerating urban population and help India meet its global commitments toward climate change,” said a ministry official.
At the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, India has committed to reduce the emission intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 as compared with its 2005 levels. About 23 per cent of the global CO2 emissions from fuel combustion is produced by the transport sector which is both the fastest growing consumer of fossil fuels and the fastest growing source of C02 emissions. 60 per cent of the Rs 80,000 crore — i.e. Rs 48,000 crore — is proposed to be provided through a specially set-up National Green Urban Mobility Fund. Half of the money in the fund would come from the Ministry of Urban Development while the other half is proposed to come from credit from multilateral agencies and international climate funds. State governments are supposed to pitch in 30 per cent while the urban local body is expected to put in the remaining 10 per cent. The ministry, which has in the past in its Smart Cities Mission introduced the concept of cities competing against each other for funding, has proposed a similar ‘Green Mobility Challenge’. Cities will have to each submit their Green Mobility Plan which will be evaluated by the Centre on certain parameters and ranked. Funds would then be released to the top scorers, said officials.
KT Ravindran, dean emeritus at the RICS School of Built Environment, said that a green mobility plan is absolutely essential but what is also required are strong disincentives to deter the heavy private vehicular traffic. The scheme, as it is now, has very few such disincentives which includes advocating for a city-level parking policy that discourages private vehicles. “A few cities in Switzerland, France and the US are debating introducing a complete ban on private vehicles. We need to at least revisit our auto manufacturing system and introduce heavy taxes for the same, disallow production of diesel vehicles and have a higher rate of interest for car loans,” said Ravindran. He added that while there has to be a focus on promoting public transport it has to be green. “BRTS, which has become a bad word in Delhi, is one such green mode of transport. Whereas Metro rail is not green and is extremely energy-intensive as a mode of transportation, in its fuel consumption both in coal-based captive plants or otherwise. What is required is a solid strategy and a radical shift in our transport policy,” he said.