Stakeholder and media briefing workshop on Clean Air and Sustainable Mobility

Organised by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi in association with Uttar Pradesh State Pollution Control Board

Supported by Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority of Supreme Court of India

Cities of north India – including in UP – waking up to more smog and pollution

Strong preventive action needed, says CSE

  • After the mega cities, now the second rung cities of north India are emerging as the big growth centres -- but also as the most polluted and congested urban points 

  • Private vehicle usage in these cities will increase more than in the mega cities. Lucknow, Ghaziabad, Chandigarh… all in the grip of this growing motorisation

  • Smaller cities have advantages – people use buses and non-motorised vehicles to commute, or walk. This helps manage their air pollution and urban mobility. Cities should leverage this strength

  • Unfortunately, these walking and cycling cities are now steadily shifting towards cars and two-wheelers as public transport remains inadequate 

  • Lucknow and other cities in the region need the next steps, including scaling up of public transport, integrated multi-modal transport options, car restraints and walking for clean air 

Lucknow, July 2, 2013: Early this year, India was struck by a shocking revelation: the Global Burden of Disease estimates said that in India, one-fifth of deaths occurred from outdoor air pollution. Experts and governments scrambled to take stock of the problem and its solution in all cities of India.

But a recent air quality review for north India, carried out by the New Delhi-based research and advocacy body Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and released here today, has put the spotlight not on India’s mega metropolises, but on its second rung cities – such as Lucknow and Chandigarh, among others.

Releasing the review at a stakeholder and media briefing workshop on Clean Air and Sustainable Mobility here today, Bhure Lal, chair of the Supreme Court’s Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, said: “The challenge facing our second rung cities is more daunting than that facing our mega urban centres.” 

Said Anumita Roychowdhury, CSE’s executive director-research and advocacy: “These emerging cities, so far neglected in air quality management, need urgent intervention and deeper understanding of their unique challenges and solutions for immediate preventive action. These cities are growing rapidly and threatening to worsen the pollution and congestion nightmare.” 

For the newly emerging cities especially in the state of Uttar Pradesh, improving urban air quality and protecting sustainable urban commuting practices are some of the toughest challenges. These cities, while having made some significant strides in meeting air quality challenges, face newer challenges. Said Roychowdhury: “They need second generation action, including technology leapfrog, scaling up of public transport, integrated multi-modal transport options, car restraints and walking for clean air.” 

CSE’s findings

Air pollution crisis

Very high levels of killer particles

  • PM10: All cities exceed the standard. Allahabad, Ghaziabad, Kanpur and Bareilly have highest critical levels -- 4 times the standard. Firozabad, Agra, Mathura, Saharanpur, Lucknow, Khurja, Rae Bareli, Moradabad and Gajraula have levels 3 times the standard. Jhansi, Gorakhpur, Meerut, Sonbhadra, Noida and Varanasi have levels twice the standard.

  • NO2: Meerut, Gorakhpur, Ghaziabad, Noida and Kanpur show a rising trend.

  • SO2: Levels under control in almost all cities – except in Ghaziabad and Khurja.

  • Multi-pollutant crisis: Most cities hit by rising levels of not one, but several pollutants. For instance, Ghaziabad, Khurja and Mathura have critical levels of PM10 and also higher SO2 than other UP cities.

Expanding air quality monitoring capacity
North India has 23% of the total air quality monitoring stations of the country; 42 cities are monitored. Uttar Pradesh is second after Maharashtra to have the highest number of operational air quality monitoring stations in its 15 cities. UP cities have also begun to create capacity to monitor PM2.5 particles that are more hazardous to health.   

Pollution hotspots inside cities
Several localities inside the cities show alarming trends. In Lucknow, Charbagh, Amausi, Vikas Nagar and Chowk areas are in the grip of multi pollutant crisis. These locations show high levels of PM10, PM2.5 and NO2. 

Report card - highest and lowest pollution in the region 

  • In the northern region, Ghaziabad has the highest level of PM10; Shimla has the lowest.

  • Delhi has the highest NOx level whereas Hissar has the lowest.

  • Among cities of UP, highest PM10 levels are in Allahabad.

  • Meerut has the highest NO2 level.

  • City with the highest SO2 level is Ghaziabad.

  • The city with the lowest PM10 levels in UP is Unnao.

  • The city with the lowest NOx levels is Rae Bareli

A public health challenge

Over the last two decades efforts have been made at local levels to assess the health impacts of air pollution. There is enough evidence to act urgently to reduce the public health risks to children, elderly, poor and all. India will have to take action now to reverse the trend of short-term as well as long-term toxic effects.

  • There are studies in Lucknow and Kanpur conducted over the last decade that bear out the daunting public health challenge. A study for Kanpur by the GSVM Medical College and CPCB shows lower lung function for people living in Vikas Nagar and Juhilal Colony than those living in a cleaner environment. 

  • UPENVIS has shown that in entire Uttar Pradesh, 0.4 million disability adjusted life years are lost due to air pollution -- this costs the state about Rs 2.6 billion. 

  • A study by Usha Gupta Institute of Economic Growth and Bhimrao Ambedkar College has estimated that collectively, the annual monetary benefits to the entire population of Kanpur can be as much as Rs 213 million – which means that the city can save this much -- if the city is able to meet air quality standards. 

Vehicles are a special problem

Cities have many sources of outdoor air pollution and all require mitigation action. But vehicles pose a special challenge. In the future cities will witness a rapid increase in vehicular traffic. In terms actual exposure, people will be more vulnerable to vehicular fumes while traveling and in close proximity to roads. In densely-populated cities, more than 50-60% of the population lives or works near roadside where levels are much higher. This is very serious in low income neighbourhoods located close to roads. Poor have a higher prevalence of some underlying diseases related to air pollution and proximity to roadways increases the potential health effects. Road users, public transport users, walkers and cyclists are the most exposed groups – they are also the urban majority.

Motorisation trends

  • Rapid growth: Among the states of north, UP has witnessed the highest rate of growth in motor vehicles -- it has the highest number of registered vehicles (13.3 million) followed by Haryana (5.4 million) and Punjab (5.3 million). 

  • Unique trend of the emerging cities: The emerging cities traditionally have high walk and cycle share and also impressive usage of para transit including autos and cycle rickshaws. But as these systems come under pressure because of policy neglect, people steadily shift towards personal vehicles. In fact, a study by the Union ministry of urban transport has shown that share of personal vehicles usage – cars and two-wheelers – will rise the maximum in the small rung cities in future.  

  • If we compare the total number of private car and two-wheeler trips with the combined walking and cycling trips in some cities of the region an interesting trend emerges. The numbers of car and two-wheelers have already crossed the numbers of walk and cycle trips. Thus these bigger cities are beginning to cross the tipping point. 

Outdated vehicle technology and fuel quality

There are special concerns about growing use of poor quality diesel. Several international and national health agencies have also reviewed relevant data on diesel exhaust and have classified either the exhaust mixture or the particulate component as probable human carcinogen. Diesel exhaust includes a large number of toxic compounds that cause cancer, reproductive abnormalities and other toxic impacts. 

Special concern over diesel emissions

The new shocker: Diesel emission is a class 1 carcinogen: The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a wing of the World Health Organization (WHO), has said that diesel engine exhaust can certainly cause cancer, especially lung cancer in humans. Is India prepared to respond to the public health risk of diesel? This finding comes at a time when India has failed to adopt a clean diesel road map, prevent use of under-taxed and under-priced toxic diesel in cars, and reduce its overall consumption in all sectors. This decision has come from a rigorous review of the latest scientific evidence on the cancer-causing potential of diesel and petrol exhausts. Evidence on diesel's toxicity has been mounting over the past 20 years, which has already compelled stringent regulatory action on diesel quality and emissions standards in other regions of the world.

Health concerns have driven governments in Europe, the US, Japan and other countries to leapfrog to clean diesel. Diesel is considered relatively cleaner when advanced emissions control systems are used with diesel fuel with 10 ppm sulphur content. But the diesel sulphur level in India is as high as 350 ppm. Only a few cities have 50 ppm sulphur diesel – which is five times higher than the global benchmark. 

It is extremely worrying that even after the implementation of the Auto Fuel Policy in 2010 which introduced Bharat Stage III in the country and Bharat Stage IV in 13 cities, the government of India has not set the next target for moving quickly to Euro VI emissions standards. Therefore, new automobile production and investments in the country are not even linked to any further commitment to improving vehicle technology and fuel quality. This will significantly delay adoption of clean diesel technology in the country and add to the toxic risk. In fact, by the end of the 12th Plan, the so called modern diesel technology in India will be 17 years behind Europe! Cities need early timeline for introduction of Euro V and Euro VI emissions standards. All the cities of the north must demand more stringent roadmap. 

Mobility crisis

Cities are paying a very high price for congestion. Traffic jams lead to fuel wastage, more pollution and serious economic losses. A normal commuting time has increased significantly during peak hours. On many arterial roads the traffic volume has exceeded the designed capacity and the service level of the road. A quick glance at the city development plans and other sources bring out the nature of mobility crisis in the cities. 

Unique challenge of emerging medium rung cities – expected to record higher use of personal vehicles

A study carried out for the ministry of urban development forecasts that smaller cities will witness massive share of personal vehicle usage in the future. 

  • Share of private vehicles will increase very rapidly in second rung emerging cities

  • Share of non-motorised vehicles that are high in these cities will decline more rapidly. 

  • Share of formal public transport which is already very low in smaller cities will slide further.

For example, cities with 0.5 million to 2 million population will have high share of private vehicle usage in 2031 -- about 57% -- Mega cities will be at 46%. The share of PT and NMT will fall dramatically. This will compound the pollution and climate challenge of these cities. 

Congested and un-walkable 

  • Varanasi and Kanpur with comparatively much less number of vehicles have congestion levels close to that of Delhi. 

  • Kanpur, Varanasi and Agra have lower walkability index rating compared to Chandigarh which has highest value on this index.

  • Patna, Agra, Kanpur, Amritsar and Varanasi have higher NMT traffic on roads – it is indicated by higher slow moving vehicle index.

  • Agra and Varanasi have comparatively safer roads compared to Kanpur, Shimla or Amritsar.

  • Evidence from Kanpur shows that in more than 26 per cent of the road length the traffic volume has exceeded the designed capacity of the roads. Roads have to bear more traffic than they have been designed for. Roads are also encroached and surface quality is poor. 

Plummeting traffic speed

Cities with lesser numbers of vehicles than mega cities have nearly similar journey speed. Even after building so much roads Delhi and Varanasi have almost similar average peak hour journey speed -- 16km per hour vs 17.7 km per hour.

State of public transport: Challenges of bus reforms

Buses will play a crucial role in the mobility transition in the big and medium rung cities. Cities need well managed, well organised modern buses that deliver efficient public transport services at affordable rates. Cities need buses because these allow greater flexibility, greater geographical coverage, cost effectiveness, and space efficiency. New bus routings can flexibly and easily meet the needs of changes in demography and land use in cities. It can also cover areas with lower travel demand. A bus occupies twice the road space taken by a car but carries 40 times the number of passengers. Bus can displace anywhere between 5 and 50 other vehicles and allow enormous oil and pollution savings. 

The bus stimulus scheme of the JNNURM programme has catalysed central government investment in bus rolling stock. City governments are also setting aside money to buy buses. The new public transport buses are now expected to meet the urban bus specifications of the Ministry of Urban Development. 

The CSE review of the available information shows that all the State Transport Undertakings for buses in Northern India run 17 per cent of the bus fleet in the country. The Uttar Pradesh State Transport Corporation is the 5th largest bus corporation in the country. According to the data of the Union Ministry of Road transport and Highways UPRTC is among the top 4 profit making SRTCUs in the country today. 

However, bus reforms and investments are just not about buying new buses but about efficient deployment of reliable and attractive services. Cities require immediate improvement in service level of bus service in terms of frequency, reliability, coverage, reliable information, ITS enabled passenger information service, improvement in ticketing system, bus priority, signaling, GPS enabled deployment strategy, among others. These service conditions will have to be fulfilled. This will also determine the costs. This is also pushing cities towards plans for service improvement. 

New barriers: Fuel trap for bus transport: 

  • Bus made to pay higher price for diesel than cars: Bus transport is increasingly coming under pressure because of high fuel costs that can be substantial part of the operational cost. It is mindless that the diesel prices have hiked first for buses and not for cars. CNG prices are also going up steadily. For cars the prices are increasing slowly – 50 paise at a time. But for the bulk buyers like buses this has been hiked by Rs 10 per cent. High fuel costs are a very important input of operations. 

  • Addressing fuel cost of the bus agency is necessary. Otherwise, increase in bus fares will lead to steady erosion of ridership to two-wheelers whose operational cost is as low as Re 1 to Rs 2 per km.  Over a period of time, the higher price for diesel would have left STCs with little option but to increase fares.

  • Poor fuel economy of buses adding more to fuel costs: Another reason why the fuel cost is increasing is the worsening of the fuel economy of the new bus fleet. The latest information available shows that the UPSRTC has recorded highest decline in fuel economy in the country. 

Assessment of other bus corporations as in Bangalore has shown that fuel economy penalty while moving from Euro II to Euro III technologies. Increase in power, torque, and performance – and without fuel economy norms -- have caused fuel economy penalty. To this is added the problem of idling, frequent acceleration and deceleration on congested roads. This costs huge money to the bus company. Bus transport corporations are looking at many ways of reducing fuel consumption. UPSRTC will have to strategise for that. 

Parking pressure

Not only the vehicles taking over road but also the urban space to meet the insatiable demand for parking. The 2008 Wilbur Smith report for the ministry of urban development indicate that smaller the cities more road length become vulnerable to on-street parking that adds to congestion. This is quite substantial given the bigger road networks in these cities. But in other and relatively smaller cities more than half of the road length is being used for parking. In emerging cities of UP high share of road length comes under on-street parking pressure– close to 50 per cent. This adds enormously to congestion. 

Parking is the most wasteful uses of cars. For about 90 to 95 per cent of the time a car is parked.It creates insatiable demand for land. A rapid estimate shows that in Delhi new car registration creates additional demand for land for parking which is equal to 310 football fields. In Kanpur: 21 football fields; Lucknow: 42 fields; Agra: 14 fields; Allahabad: 14 fields; and Ghaziabad: 26 fields.  

Cities have begun to act 

  • Action on air pollution has begun in these cities and even shown results.  Most of the key cities in the region have already initiated their first generation action that includes a wide gamut of measures. They have phased out leaded petrol, introduced Bharat Stage III standards in the state and Bharat Stage IV standards in few big cities, introduced CNG in buses and small vehicle segments like the autos and taxis, notified lubricant standards for two-stroke engines, bypass heavy duty trucks during day hours, strengthened pollution control efforts, capped the ages of buss in Lucknow and Kanpur in other sectors and so on. , 

  • The first generation action has helped many of the cities to stabilize the air pollution problem. But cities are in danger of losing the gains as particulate pollution levels are once again rising and are elevated and newer pollutants like nitrogen dioxides are also rising steadily. The cities now face the second generation challenge. Cities will have to leap ahead to keep ahead of the problem and if it does not want to wheeze, and suffocate. 

Impressive CNG programme in UP cities

Uttar Pradesh has taken the lead in building up the CNG programme in the region. Several cities of UP including Lucknow, Kanpur, Agra, Bareilly and Meerut, have established CNG programme helping to cut the toxic diesel emissions. It is impressive that these extensive programmes could be built even though CNG prices in UP are among the highest in the country. There is certainly an opportunity to look at the fiscal measures to provide fiscal incentive for further expansion of the programem to secure public health.    

Learn from Delhi’s experience

Delhi has not been able to solve its problem of pollution and congestion by building more roads and flyovers for cars.  Delhi is most privileged to have more than 21 per cent of its geographical area under road space. Delhi has built the maximum roads and flyovers. Yet its roads are totally gridlocked. Peak hour traffic has even slumped to below 15 km/hour. Cars and two-wheelers in Delhi occupy 90 per cent of the road space but meet less than 20 per cent of the travel demand. More roads are not the answer. 

Cities must build on its strength. Build on the strength of NMT use

  • Very high usage of non-motorised transport in UP cities: The cities of Uttar Pradesh have enormous strength: These cities have enormous strength in very high share of non-motorised transport. ‘Walk and cycle share is very high -- close to 50%. This is a great strength.  If ‘walk, cycle, public transport, and auto’ are added together – Agra: 53%, Kanpur 64%, Varanasi 56%. This must find policy support.  NOIDA has highest share of walk trips and Agra has the highest share of cycle trips among the cities for which data is available. It is remarkable that only Noida authority has planned investment of around Rs 200 crores for cycle tracks

  • Yet the challenge -- Private vehicle usage share in total motorized transport is relatively higher compared to metros. Agra -- private vehicle share is 48%, Varanasi 44% Kanpur 37%. This indicates that the UP cities that were predominantly Walking and cycling cities have begun to motorise rapidly because of inadequate modern public transport system. 

This is the low polluting and low carbon mobility paradigm that the world is trying to achieve today to be more sustainable. Cities must be made conscious of this strength. The cities have advantage because it has closely built, high density environment. This has reduced travel distances that fosters low emissions and low carbon transport like walking, bicycling, paratransit and bus/metro based transport. 

The compact city design is the advantage of these cities: The cities have given the advantage small average travel distances. In most cities the average travel distance is around 3-4 kms. Average trip length in most UP cities and Punjab cities is around 4.5 km. In Kanpur the average distance in 3 km.  Surprisingly, the Master Plan of NOIDA in the national capital region shows that abouy 60 per cent of the local trips have trip length as small as one kilometer. This enables very high level of walking, cycling and public transport usage. Only in bigger cities the average distance is longer. 

Influence transportation investments

  • At the national level more than 70 per cent of the investments have been made in car centric infrastructure including flyovers and road widening. The investment in pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure is not of desired scale. 

Way forward

The emerging cities are the new growth areas. But they still have the chance to plan its future growth differently and avoid the path of pollution, congestion and energy guzzling. More road space is not the answer. Cities need to make maximum investment in redesigning their existing road space and travel pattern and achieve compact urban form to provide the majority of the people affordable and efficient mode of public transport that can be an alternative to personal vehicles. 

Soft options have all been exhausted. Reducing personal vehicle usage, upgrading public transport, walking and cycling, and leapfrogging vehicle technology are the key options left for us.  Plan cities for people not vehicles. Design roads for public transport, cycling and walking. Not cars. This is the option for the city to cut killer pollution, crippling congestion, expensive oil guzzling and global warming impacts of vehicles. 

  • Strengthen air quality, health monitoring and risk communication: Review the monitoring network keeping in mind the growth in pollution, population exposed and newer challenges like ozone, PM2.5 and toxics. It should strengthen its monitoring grid, deploy air quality forecasting modes, must regularly and systematically monitor the health indicators etc. at the same time implement an air quality index system and health advisory for informing people about ill effects of poor air quality.

  • Make a strong linkage between air quality policies and vehicular pollution control: In urban India vehicles are the most rapidly growing source of toxic air pollution. Industry, power plants can be taken out of the cities but not vehicles. To meet the air quality standards all sources will require stringent measures. But vehicles will require special attention to reduce exposure to toxic pollution in cities. 

  • Tighten fuel quality and emissions roadmap: Tighter emission norms have become the necessity to ensure that pollutants are cut at source. Introduce Euro V and Euro VI on a nation wide basis with an early timeline.   Strengthen emissions checks on in-use vehicles. As the Union government firms up the Auto Fuel Policy road map for the country the city governments must demand stringent roadmap for public health security.  

  • Scale up and accelerate bus transport reforms. Integrate public transport, and non-motorised transport. Cities need to integrate bus, cycling, walking and para-transit systems. The emerging cities require composite plan to scale up, modernize and integrate public transport and non-motorised transport. The roadmap for this must be put in place immediately. 

  • Build pedestrian infrastructure: The government should mandate pedestrian plans and make it conditional to infrastructure funding. Investments must be linked with explicit pedestrian and cycling plans. The relevant laws will have to be harmonised and strengthened for more direct legal protection of pedestrian space and rights. We need a comprehensive Road users act for targeted pedestrianisation; segregation of space by users; system of penalty to prevent encroachment in pedestrian space; prevent usurpation of pedestrian space for motorised traffic without proper justification. Implement walkability audits. Public transport plans must include pedestrian plan for multimodal integration. Need zero tolerance policy for accidents. 

  • Enforce parking controls, rationalise parking charges on cars: Experience from around the world shows that parking controls, parking pricing along with taxes top the list as the first generation car restraint measures worldwide. CSE’s assessment shows that cars are the becoming the biggest encroachers in Jaipur. At the same time parking charges are minimal, therefore a revision of parking charges has become necessary.

  • Use tax measures to discourage personal vehicle usage and inefficient use of fuels 

  • Set up public transport fund to meet the cost of transition




News Clipping

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