Climate plan broadens environmental actionDelhi, one of the finalists in WWF’s Earth Hour City Challenge 2013, is one of the first cities in India to launch a climate plan. It has resulted in a broadened environmental programme with actions across the board, such as mandating solar water heaters, subsidising green buildings, increasing green cover and reconditioning the sewage system. Meanwhile, the city is continuing its overhaul of the mass transit system, which includes an expansion of the metro, the first transport project in the world to be financed by the UN Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).
Keywords: Climate Change, metro, solar water heaters, green buildings, sewage system
India has long been very active in the policy field of sustainable development and is one of a few countries that has national policies in all areas of renewable energy support, according to Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21). It was the sixth nation in the world to introduce feed-in tariffs (FITs) for renewable energy in 1993, is one of the top six countries for non-hydro renewable power capacity, and has set a target to double renewable power capacity by 2017.
Thus it shouldn't be so surprising that for a low-income megacity Delhi ranks unusually high in Siemens Asian Green City Index, with an overall average score. It has a "strong Department of Environment, which is actively engaged in overall environmental assessment, monitoring, and protection" with a "wide legal remit to address the city’s environmental challenges", according to the index (see also Mexico City).
Improving public transport
Delhi had one of the highest traffic congestion and pollution rates in the world until the city government took action at the turn of the millennium: it converted the city's public transport system (including all buses and auto rickshaws) from diesel to natural gas (CNG), invested in a new metro system, introduced regulation for vehicles and fuels and closed hazardous industries (see also Delhi).
The New Delhi Metro Rail Project is now undergoing an ambitious expansion. As of August 2011, the network consists of six lines with 142 metro stations, and a total rail length of 190 km. Phases III and IV will be completed by 2015 and 2021 respectively, with the network expanding to 413 km. Pollution is projected to decrease by 630,000 tons per year thanks to this expansion. Being the first transport project in the world to be registered under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), the project recycles train energy for carbon credits. It includes energy-saving measures such as a regenerative braking system. Whenever the trains apply their brakes, they produce electrical energy that is used for accelerating other trains on the same service line, saving overall energy.
The Metro Rail Project is part of a broader overhaul of Delhi's mass transit system, that will include a new High Capacity Bus System, Electric Trolley Buses with corresponding corridors, and measures to promote cycling and walking (see also Guangzhou). An Integrated Rail Cum Bus Transit System (IRBT) has also been proposed, and is likely to consist of an initial three corridors linking Ghaziabad, Sahibabad and Gurgaon to New Delhi. The government continues to regulate vehicles, fuels and traffic, and to expand the air quality monitoring system to ensure improved air quality.
Climate Change Agenda
In the early 2000s, the initiatives in the transport system changed the level of pollution overnight, and the air quality has continued to improve in recent years, according to the city. It also became the starting point for a broad environmental programme in Delhi, that was formulated in the Climate Change Agenda 2009-12, and continues in the 2012-17 five-year plan. The Agenda includes 65 actions to combat climate change, under the following headings: solar energy, energy efficiency, sustainable habitat, strategic knowledge, water conservation and the green India mission:
- The solar mission mandates solar water heaters in some buildings and provides subsidies and incentives for them all over the city. It also provides support for Solar PV projects.
- The energy efficiency mission has adopted green building codes for new government buildings, and is retrofitting old government buildings, with a target of 100 buildings in the first phase. Energy efficient lighting is installed in streets and subsidized for homes.
- The sustainable urban habitat mission covers the already mentioned transport and power generating initiatives and also a programme to improve waste management, that includes a plastic bag ban, new recycling plants and a plan for composting infrastructure.
- The green mission aims to increase green space from 20% to 33%, with dedicated conservation zones to protect biodiversity. It also aims to rejuvenate parks and gardens, and incentivize herbal parks through community involvement.
- The water mission aims to reduce water consumption with incentives and regulations, subsidises rainwater harvesting, and improve the infrastructure with leak detection, new dams and water treatment facilities. The city also has a number of plans to recondition its sewage system, including replacing or repairing hundreds of km of sewers and constructing 15 Common Effluent Treatment Plants, that will generate methane for energy use, another CDM-project.
- The strategic knowledge mission aims to raise awareness among residents and has for example created Eco-clubs in 1,000 schools. Children take part in a variety of projects, including water conservation, tree planting and creating nature trails, as well as schemes to cut waste.
Worldwide Fund for Nature, ”Earth Hour City Challenge 2013”, http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/footprint/cities/earth_hour_city_challenge/challenge_2013/
carbonn Cities Climate Registry, Earth Hour City Challenge, http://citiesclimateregistry.org/cities/earth-hour-city-challenge/
Earth Hour City Challenge, People’s Choice, New Delhi, http://www.ehcitychallenge.org/peopleschoice/city/newdelhi
Delhi Department of Environment, http://www.delhi.gov.in/wps/wcm/connect/environment/Environment/Home/
Delhi Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Management Centre, http://delhi.gov.in/wps/wcm/connect/doit_eerem/EEREM/Home/
REN21, "Renewables Global Status Report 2013", http://www.ren21.net/REN21Activities/GlobalStatusReport.aspx
Siemens, "Asian Green City Index", http://www.siemens.com/entry/cc/features/greencityindex_international/all/en/pdf/report_asia.pdf