in India is a double-edged sword. Cities propel economic growth and change the lives of millions for the better – but they also create waste, emissions, and health problems. The time for those that inhabit them to take advantage of the advanced technologies and participate in various community driven initiatives to tackle these issues – is here and now.
Indeed, there exist today, several citizen communities, private sector initiatives and government policies that are enabling solutions that will help society reap the benefits of urbanisation.
The choice is ours.
Here a few that deals with the biggest challenges cities face.
We all know that one of the key areas to tackle is reducing urban transport’s carbon footprint, which has severe environmental and human health implications. This is a policy area in which the Government of India has announced various mandates and initiatives. India is skipping BS-V norms altogether and leapfrogging to BS-VI norms by April 1, 2020. Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards mandate that average fuel efficiency will increase from 18.2 km per litre in 2016-17 to 22 km per litre by 2021-22. The National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 aims to ensure that there will be six to seven million electric/hybrid vehicles in India by 2020. Most recently, an inter-ministerial committee led by Niti Aayog is drawing up the details of a plan to convert most vehicles to electric by 2030. Like several other countries where e-mobility
targets have been achieved, India has also put in place FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles in India). Under this scheme, hybrid/electric vehicles have been given direct support by way of demand incentives.
With an enabling policy in place – we can now look to technologies that can accelerate and achieve these bold plans implement them in a time bound way. As mentioned above, the e-mobility
target is a bold one, and the policy is progressive, but equally urgent is the need to identify, select and promote technologies that help achieve faster adaptation and shift to cleaner and greener urban solutions. For example, stringent emission norms require cleaner engines with advanced emission after-treatment systems. Four-way conversion catalysts, which combine the functionality of a three-way conversion catalyst (TWC) with a gasoline particulate filter, remove pollutants with a single component. This saves weight and space, while increasing efficiency. Such engine technologies must be encouraged.
Similarly, innovations in battery materials and technology lie at the heart of achieving the vision for e-mobility.
Recommendations to acquire lithium fields have already been made. We also, however, need advanced battery materials for lithium-ion batteries. These will play a key role in determining battery performance, energy density, service life, and safety. It is only when this technology is used and vehicles are fitted with advanced batteries that e-mobility
targets will be met.
If the challenges of shifting to sustainable
urban transport and e-mobility
can be met by adopting advanced engine and battery technology then sustainable
disposal of municipal waste is also within our reach. Untreated waste is one such issue that causes ground, surface and soil contamination. According to a Central Pollution Control Board report, close to 50 percent of waste going to landfills across India contains organic matter. This organic matter does not biodegrade aerobically. It produces methane, a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Advances in and applications of current biodegradable chemistry
have paved the way towards several sustainable
solutions to this challenge. One such solution is the use of certified compostable and biodegradable waste bags. These bags allow waste to biodegrade into valuable compost. Solutions such as these can be widely implemented by municipalities across the country. Of course, segregation of waste at source, critical for any scalable waste management
program but requiring community level participation, should continue to be promoted.
Once again, the government is moving in the right direction on the policy front, but innovative technology will be needed to meet legislated mandates. Last year, the Ministry of Environment revised Solid Waste Management
Rules, which state that source segregation of waste has been mandated to channelise the “waste to wealth by recovery, reuse and recycle." Given that waste generation is expected to increase from current levels of 62 million tonnes to about 165 million tonnes in 2030, imagine the possibilities around biodegradable technology working in tandem with high volumes of segregated waste.
is here to stay, as are its many challenges. A 2015 World Bank Report, titled ‘Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia’, exploring this multi-dimensional phenomenon questioned whether cities will manage their ‘messy’ urbanisation
or if city life will succumb to urbanisation’s pressures. The answers lie in galvanising all stakeholders to use innovative technology that will enable and accelerate the shift to sustainable urbanisation.