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India's Urban Mobility Plans To Tackle Sustainability  

By Marianne de Nazareth

19 December, 2013

Living in any of India's metropolises has become a nightmare with the exponential increase in the quantum of vehicular traffic, on all the cities arterial roads. Pollution levels have spiraled out of control with not just the increase in vehicles but also the adulteration of the fuel sold in the country. Drive down any of the main roads of any city in the country and you can experience firsthand the smog of pollution that coats everything and anything, including our lungs.

It is with relief then that a new report is out which explains how non-motorized transport and energy efficiency is the key to reducing per capita emissions. The revised version of Toolkits for Urban Development: Comprehensive Mobility Plans was prepared by India's Ministry of Urban Development together with the Institute of Urban Transport, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other partners. It builds on the first edition of the toolkit, which was prepared in 2008. 

Improved urban transport strategies can bring a myriad of benefits In India, from reductions in CO2 emissions to a more mobile and inclusive society, according to a new report. According to the report, the goal of improved mobility strategies which include more-efficient vehicular traffic, enhanced public transit systems and non-motorized transport should be to provide safe, secure, efficient connectivity that supports and enhances economic, social and environmental sustainability. 

Since 2008, the policy landscape in India has undergone changes with a heightened focus on climate change. Given the fact that growth over the last two decades has increased the chasm between the rich and poor, there is also an emerging focus on inclusive development. The revised toolkit provides a response to these changes in the form of clear policy guidance with service-level benchmarks. 

Comprehensive Mobility Plans 

The report recommends that cities develop strong, clear and implementable comprehensive mobility plans long-term visions for desirable accessibility and mobility patterns for people and goods. 

Such plans should lead to the following outcomes: 

>> Improvement in mobility for all socio-economic groups and genders; 
>> Reduction in CO2 emissions; 
>> Improvement in air quality; 
>> Improvement in safety and security for pedestrians and non-motorized transit users; 
>> Achievement of desirable indicators and benchmarks. 

The report stresses that comprehensive mobility plans should be compatible with, and integrated into, existing city development plans. For those suffering from diseases of the bronchial tract this sounds the gong of some sort of relief if implemented. Pedestrians too in India suffer from very poor quality pavements making walking risky. In some areas pavements have been merged with the road rather than checking on the quality of their condition and securing them for pedestrians.  

Developing sustainable urban transport 

In India, the per capita CO2 emission in 2000 was 1.0 t CO2. This number jumped to 1.33 t CO2 in 2010 due to the rapid pace of development. The sustainable scenario assumes deep cuts in these emissions, using low-carbon energy sources such as renewables and natural gas, as well as highly efficient technologies (e.g., improved vehicle efficiency). It also includes the adoption of behavioural and consumption styles consistent with sustainable development. The scenario considers how to draw residents to non-motorized transit, including by enhancing the user experience (better footpaths and bicycle lanes) and improving safety for cyclists and pedestrians. It considers the need to improve public transit, such as bus service and mass transit. 

Finally, it considers technological changes that could enhance fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions, as well as regulatory and financial measures that could help shift people from private transport to more sustainable modes of transit. 

Urban Mobility Plans 

As part of comprehensive mobility plans, the report recommends that cities develop specific urban mobility plans, which are based on the sustainable scenario. These should include a concrete timeframe, financing options and identify implementing agencies. 

In addition, they should encompass: 

>> The formulation of a public transport improvement plan, including improvements for buses, trams and para-transit; 
>> A road network development plan; 
>> Regulatory and institutional measures on traffic safety and emissions; 
>> Plans for non-motorized transit. 


The report recommends that immediate and short-term actions within 2 years should aim at improving the safety and accessibility of pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users, as well as traffic circulation. 

The Medium-term actions which are within 2-5 years should include city-level initiatives such as public transport fleet enhancements, which are aimed at halting the decrease in the city's public transport and non-motorized transit use. 

Meanwhile, long-term actions within 5-10 years, should include implementing the overall vision of the comprehensive mobility plan. This involves developing networks for walking and cycling, bus systems, mass-transit networks, parking regulations and pricing strategies as a demand management tool and improving overall road networks for efficiency. 

( Marianne de Nazareth is a Freelance science and environment journalist and adjunct faculty, St Joseph's College of Media studies, Bangalore. )




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