India has always boasted the longest rail network in the world. That network is also the fourth most heavily used in the world, transporting over 6 billion passengers and 350 million tons of freight annually.
Many cities, however, are in desperate need of a public transport overhaul and the sector is riddled with issues like outdated infrastructure, lack of investment, corruption and an increasing population which creates increased demand. According to recent Goldman Sachs estimates, India will need to spend US $1.7 trillion on infrastructure projects over the next decade to boost economic growth.
Transportation contributes a significant amount of carbon emissions and to tackle the problem of growing transportation needs, there needs to be a two-pronged effort. In cities, every effort must be made to improve public transportation, encourage alternatives like walking, biking and car-pooling.
There are several cities in the world where transportation systems are so good that you do not even need a car. In fact, owning a car becomes cumbersome. New York, Chicago, Paris, San Francisco, London all have excellent public transport systems. Asian cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing have the some of the greenest public transport systems that are not only efficient but also less carbon intensive.
The Indian capital of New Delhi can now join these ranks and boast that it is now the world’s first railway network to earn carbon credits from the United Nations for helping to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The Delhi Metro opened in 2002 and has helped reduce pollution levels in the city by 630,000 tonnes a year. Air pollution is part of a urban lifestyle, but it comes with serious health consequences. The WHO estimates that over 2 million people a year die prematurely from bad air. Delhi has rated consistently high on the pollution index, therefore any move to make the air cleaner is sure to be appreciated.
The Delhi Metro caters to 1.8 million people who use it daily and it will get $9.5m (£6.1m) in carbon credits annually for seven years. As the number of passengers increase, so will this figure. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) scheme run by the UN generates carbon credits and this gives developing countries financial incentives to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The certificate for carbon credits was recently issued and the UN statement asserted that:
“The United Nations body administering the clean development mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol has certified that Delhi Metro has reduced emissions. No other Metro in the world could get the carbon credit because of the very stringent requirement to provide conclusive documentary proof of reduction in emissions.”
According to the UN, every passenger who uses the Metro instead of cars or buses helps to reduce GHG emissions by approximately 100gm of carbon-dioxide for every trip of 10km (6 miles). Similar systems are being planned or already under commission in other Indian cities – Bangalore is a notable example. If the Delhi Metro is any indication, planned infrastructure improvement is what India needs to tackle the dual problems of traffic congestion and pollution.
Image Credit: Mickey laksya, Wikimedia Commons. Delhi Metro