Sustainable Low Carbon Transport In India
By Marianne de Nazareth
16 March, 2013
When I heard Kamala Ernest, Programme Officer, Transport Unit of UNEP, Kenya explain that India’s transport sector is responsible for 14 per cent of the country’s energy-related CO2 emissions in 2010—and the accompanying impacts on air quality, public health, road safety, and sustainable urban development, my ears pricked up. Living in the burgeoning metropolis of Bangalore, India, it is without a doubt that in recent years, increased vehicle use, has lead to an augmentation in congestion, accidents, and local air pollution. And we have city fathers who in their benevolence, have hacked off all our old tree avenues in the city, to broaden and widen the roads, rather than take other more viable and less polluting measures to contain the problem. If this trend continues, all of these problems will get worse, reiterates Kamala. With rising health issues across Bangalore,and that has been proven that vehicle smoke is carcinogenic, there is no doubt that something drastic needs to be done to contain this spiralling, uncontrolled growth to a more sustainable, low carbon transport level in India.
UNEP Transport Unit (www.unep.org/transport) in Kenya, UNEP Risø Centre (www.uneprisoe.org) in Denmark and partners in India have happily embarked on a new initiative to support a low carbon transport pathway in India. The three-year 2.49 million Euro project is funded under the International Climate Initiative of the German Government, and is designed in line with India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). This project aims to address transportation growth, development agenda and climate change issues in an integrated manner by catalyzing the development of a Transport Action Plan at the national level and low carbon mobility plans at cities level.
According to the project guidelines, by aligning development and climate goals, India can make its transport growth more sustainable. India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) outlines a combination of measures that can reduce transport CO2 emissions, including increased public transport, more biofuel use, enhanced vehicle energy efficiency, making old vehicles redundant, among other initiatives.
Building on the Indian government’s ongoing efforts to create a low carbon transport system, the project’s twin goals are to:
• Create an enabling policy environment at the national level for building a sustainable transport system, and
• Increase the cities’ capacity to improve mobility while lowering CO2 emissions.
We are all aware that India’s economy has seen unprecedented growth during the last decade, averaging 7-8% per annum. While this growth has created a great deal of opportunity, it has also resulted in many challenges, especially for infrastructure required to sustain this rate of growth. Transport is viewed as one of the most important infrastructures for the national economy. In national transport systems, freight transport acts as the critical link between ports, markets and manufacturing centres.There is increasing recognition among policymakers in India that transport infrastructure could become a serious bottleneck for future economic growth. This is particularly the case for freight transport, as high growth in freight traffic is expected to continue in the medium and long-term. The capacity of the existing rail network for freight transport is saturated on most of the trunk routes and the road network is also highly congested. It is apparent that economic growth at the current pace cannot be sustained without substantial addition to transport and logistics infrastructure.
So, in 2006, the Ministry of Railways adopted a long-term strategic plan to develop six high capacity, high speed dedicated freight corridors (DFC) along the “golden quadrilateral” that connects India’s four largest cities, and their diagonals. The Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Limited (DFCCIL), a special purpose vehicle (SPV) company, was established to implement the DFC projects. The Delhi-Mumbai DFC, also known as the Western DFC, is one of the two corridors being constructed at present. The remaining four corridors would be taken up subsequently. The Government of Japan and the World Bank are providing financial and technical support for these projects.
The DFC project is one of the largest infrastructure projects ever implemented by the Indian Railways. Its main rationale is that the DFCs would enable the Indian Railways to meet the growing demand for freight transport and induce modal shift of freight traffic from road to rail. The most important benefit of the DFC for the Indian Railways would be the higher operational efficiency in both freight and passenger services since the congestion on existing rail network would reduce significantly. In addition to efficiency improvements, the DFCs would contribute to substantial energy savings and significant reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These, in turn, could provide additional revenues to the Indian Railways through mechanisms such as carbon credits.
Many countries around the world use rail infrastructure for “long haul operations”, which is another term for freight corridors, specifically built for transportation of bulk freight goods by railways. However, few countries have dedicated freight corridors. Among the ones that do, the most prominent are Australia, South Africa, China, The Netherlands and USA.
In the empirical study conducted, the main rationale for choosing the Western DFC project by UNEP is based on the belief that the proposed DFCs represent a sustainable transport solution for India’s freight transport system, which is facing serious capacity constraints. Inadequate capacity of the existing rail network is not only undermining the economic and operational efficiency of the transport system but is also resulting in unsustainably high levels of local pollution and GHG emissions due to over dependence on road transport for freight movement. The Government of India has simultaneously initiated the development of an industrial corridor – the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) – along both sides of the DFC to induce economic development in the surrounding region. This shows that the policymakers also recognize the development opportunities offered by investments in transport infrastructure.
Key findings of the project:
The findings said that without the DFC scenario, the annual CO2 emissions would increase from 2.45 million tons CO2 in 2016-17 to 12.32 million tons in 2046-47. In contrast to this, annual CO2 emissions under the BAU (With DFC) scenario would be 0.88 million tons in 2016-17 and 2.33 million tons in 2046-47. The reduction is even larger under the LC (With DFC) scenario, where the annual emissions can be expected to drop from 0.76 million tons in 2016-17 to 0.28 million tons CO2 in 2046-47. Therefore, by 2046-47, the Western DFC project would reduce annual CO2 emissions by nearly 81% under the business-as-usual scenario and by 97% under the low-carbon scenario compared to the level of emissions in the absence of the DFC.
By 2046-47, the Western DFC project would reduce annual CO2 emissions by nearly 81% under the business-as-usual scenario and by 97% under the low-carbon scenario compared to the level of emissions in the absence of the DFC.
Potential reduction of CO2 emissions from the six proposed DFCs
There are six proposed DFCs, including the Western DFC, that are planned along the Golden Quadrilateral (Delhi-Mumbai-Chennai-Kolkata) and its diagonals. The combined CO2 emissions from the six DFCs, in 2046-47, have an annual CO2 emissions almost 70 million tons lower under the BAU (With DFC) scenario than the BAU (Without DFC). These would be further reduced by 15 million tons of CO2 under the LC (With DFC) scenario. The maximum cumulative reduction expected from the six DFCs over the 30-year period is 1,168 million tons of CO2. This could be used to leverage substantial climate financing.
The reason why this case study of the Delhi-Mumbai DFC was undertaken was to demonstrate that large rail transport projects have huge potential to reduce CO2 emissions from the transport sector in India. Under the two business-as-usual scenarios, most of the reduction is due to the fact that, in the absence of the DFC, freight traffic moves largely by road, which is a more carbon-intensive mode of transport. Under the low-carbon development scenario, the additional reduction in annual CO2emissions is primarily due to decarbonisation of electricity generation at the national level and, to a lesser extent, the improvements in energy efficiency at the project level. Large transport investments have the potential to induce regional economic development, provided complementary investments in economic and social infrastructure are made.
Marianne de Nazareth is a freelance environment and science journalist and adjunct faculty, St. Joseph’s PG College of Media Studies,Bangalore and a registered PhD scholar
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