Bengaluru, known worldwide as India’s information technology capital, has become the first Indian city to join the BreatheLife campaign.
With this move, this megacity of 8.4 million people commits to reducing air pollution (including climate pollutants) in key sectors, like transport, municipal solid waste, industry and energy production.
Bengaluru is the second fastest-growing major metropolis in India and one of its most highly-educated workforces, home to 40 per cent of the country’s IT industry, international IT giants and the largest number of high-tech startups in any Indian city.
The city’s growth means it is confronted by several challenges typical to rapid urban expansion, including traffic congestion, sustainable infrastructure and transportation planning and clean municipal waste management.
In tackling them, Bengaluru is living up to its dynamic, forward-thinking reputation in its approach to development and air quality control: producing the first electric vehicle strategy in the country, source-segregating 50 per cent of its solid waste, giving pedestrians and cyclists greater priority, expanding its metro system, and working on a master plan that will guide the city’s development and expansion.
“I would like to commit our full support and endorse the goals of BreatheLife, especially focusing our efforts on mitigating effects of air pollution in our city through improving solid waste management and promoting clean energy,” said Mayor of Bangalore Gangambike Mallikarjun, on presenting Bengaluru’s joining letter to the campaign.
“With the help and support of Central Government, State Government and other departments, along with public participation, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike promises to do its best to meet the goals of BreatheLife,” the mayor continued.
Action to cut traffic-related air pollution include boosting the number of electric and “soot-free” buses on the road along with the number of charging stations for electric vehicles and the creation or expansion of walking and cycling systems, efforts that dovetail with a forthcoming jump in national vehicle and fuel emission standards to Bharat Stage VI— the equivalent of Euro VI.
The government of Karnataka has plans to introduce close to 3,000 electric buses in the state within the next three years as part of a policy that promotes e-vehicles, hailed by the media as the start of an electric revolution. Under the policy, electric vehicles would be exempt from road tax, and private fleet operators of cars and buses choosing to go electric would be eligible for additional benefits. Charging infrastructure and capacity is also expected to expand.
Buses with zero emissions “at tailpipe” are also expected to gradually replace the 7,000-strong bus fleet of the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation, the result of efforts under a soot-free urban bus fleet project launched in 2015 by The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). The project will provide both technical guidance and assistance in attracting finance for procuring technology, building depots and so on. Bengaluru is the only Indian city on the list of 50 megacities with which the project is working.
The city’s rapid transit system, Namma Metro, is being constructed and expanded in phases, with Phase 2 and two new lines under construction and an airport extension in the plans. The City notes that more and more people rely on the metro; in fact, the most recent iteration of the Bangalore Development Authority’s Master Plan 2031, a proposed regulatory framework meant to guide the city’s development over the next 15 years, aims for public transport to account for 68 to 70 per cent by 2031, up from the current 48 per cent. The plan is currently being reworked in response to overwhelming feedback from the public and various sectors.
The city’s government, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, has also drawn up detailed plans to construct bicycle lanes on over 100km of roads, in the hope of encouraging city residents to use bicycles for shorter distance, but also to support first- and last-mile connectivity, as some of the roads earmarked for bike lanes are connected to metro stations. According to Bengaluru’s very first “Bicycle Mayor”, appointed in February 2019, this infrastructure is much needed, along with greater empathy towards cyclists and pedestrians emphasized in the city’s development planning– something towards which the city’s TenderSURE project is geared.
The city is also focused on better management of its solid waste, a significant quantity of which is currently burnt. Bengaluru produces about 4,200 to 4,500 metric tonnes of solid waste every year. The city has established 189 dry waste centres to segregate waste at source and taken action to install semi-underground waste collection bins in 200 busy commercial locations and city markets.
Bengaluru has also procured 25 large capacity mechanical sweepers that have been installed in 13 locations and established seven waste processing plants with the capacity to process 2,300 tonnes of waste.
While Bengaluru’s annual average concentrations of fine and very fine particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) are nowhere near the top 10 highest in cities in India, its rapid growth is putting increasing pressure on the city’s infrastructure and processes— an anticipation that is driving the city to plan ahead for sustainable urban growth, and, in the process inspire more action.
“These efforts will not only help our city, but will also make Bengaluru a role model city in India for pioneering action against air pollution,” said Mayor Mallikarjun.
Follow Bengaluru’s clean air journey here.
Banner photo by Ramnath Bhat/CC BY 2.0.