Bengaluru’s Namma Metro has one major advantage. It does not get caught in the city’s notorious traffic jams. The ground reality however is, metro construction is today a major cause of these traffic jams. Which the humble Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) bus does get caught in.
At the drawing board stage, the metro was touted as the solution to Bangalore’s two key issues. One, getting private vehicles off the roads, thus reducing traffic congestion and vehicular pollution. Two, as being a much greener, affordable and accessible commute alternative as compared to to other options such as the city bus service. Together, this was expected to result in better air quality over the city.
Unfortunately, despite the thousands of crores being sunk in it, Namma Metro is nowhere near achieving either of these objectives. And the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) website states nothing about it being ‘green’, except for some figures on the number of trees felled, translocated and planted.
Also, repeated calls and emails to BMRCL officials to get information on environment precautions being taken in the construction process got no response.
Citizen Matters, through a series of articles, has tried to argue that buses are the relatively more sustainable, affordable and accessible commute option. There is enough statistical and anecdotal evidence that shows that the BMTC bus service deserves far more funding and all-round attention.
Yet it is on the metro that money is being showered while ignoring what most experts, and so many foreign cities, have shown to be better public commute options.
In any case, given that Bengaluru’s metro currently has only two operational lines, “the metro fails miserably in connecting the major hubs of the city,” says Shrushti Joshi, a frequent metro commuter.
While the slow pace of construction on other routes has only made the city’s traffic congestions and resultant vehicular pollution worse.
And as to whether it really is the green option it is touted to be, opinions, and some studies seem to raise serious questions.
Two contrasting studies
One study, titled “Comparison of Ridership, CO2 emissions, Travel Fare for Selected Routes in Bangalore and Tokyo Cities,” suggest two major findings. First, the major hurdle to metro ridership in Bengaluru was the lack of non-motorised transport infrastructure, for instance, pedestrian pavements. Secondly, the carbon dioxide emissions on the Purple Line, a distance, 17.8km with 75% capacity was 8.87, which in Tokyo’s (Hibiya) Silver line, with a similar distance, was 3.07. An indicator that Bengaluru’s metro contributes significantly to polluting emissions.
This measurement of CO2 emissions is expressed in kilograms per passenger at different levels of passenger loading. To quote from the study:
“CO2 emissions are indirectly computed by first computing the electrical energy consumption using a simplified model. The economic feasibility is determined by computing the income spent per year on the metro using Per Capita Income and travel fare. The results demonstrate that Tokyo’s metro is better than Bangalore’s metro in all the aspects mentioned. Furthermore, the paper also recommends the improvements which can be implemented to directly or indirectly improve Bangalore’s metro“.
Interestingly, a 2022 study by Bangalore University, carried out under the guidance of Dr Nandini N, the principal investigator with the Department of Environmental Science, has a different case to make.
This study undertook the following metro corridors – Gottigere to Nagawara, Mysuru Road Terminal to Kengeri, Krishnarajapuram-Byapanahalli to Whitefield, Puttenahalli Cross to Anjanapura Township, R V Road to Bommasandra, and Hesaraghatta Cross to BIEC.
The major finding of the study suggests that PM2.5 concentrations recorded at sampling stations in the city were well within the limit of 60µg/m3. PM stands for particulate matter, and 10 and 2.5 micrometres are the respective particle diameters. Increased exposure to the PM2.5 and 10 can cause respiratory ailments including, chronic bronchitis and reduced lung function.
PM2.5 concentration at 60µg/m3 is the prescribed level by the Central Pollution Control Board for industrial, residential, rural and other areas. But the study points out that the PM10 concentration has been within the prescribed limits of 100µg/m3 only since 2018.
Not answerable to anybody
But how did the metro came to be portrayed as the greener commute option than say, for instance, green buses?
The answer lies in the National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP) that governs India’s urban mobility policies and laws. The NUTP was amended in 2014, in order to implement low-carbon, city-centric and city-specific mobility solutions. The parameters included were integrated land use, transport planning, promotion and implementation of non-motorised transportation, and an overarching multi-modal sustainable urban transport apparatus.
Furthermore, the directives of the NUTP-2014 specified streamlined investment projects for a larger people-centric urban transportation, which meant equal attention to be given to other public commute. But most cities ignored this, focussing instead on building costly metro networks. Which led to little attention or resources left for other sustainable transport alternatives, like non-motorised Transport.
The diversion of large sums of money to metros is shown in studies titled, “Policymaking Towards Green Mobility in India” and “Urban Transport Developments in India under NUTP and JnNURM”. The studies show that the NUTP funds and the funds allocated for Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), which were supposed to offer delivery in terms of better and sustainable urban public transport, were all diverted to funding metros and light rail.
Although the NUTP as a policy is quite comprehensive, the worsening road congestion and the resultant increase in vehicular emissions indicate that these are byproducts of systemic issues within India’s transportation sector.
For instance, despite all the funds allocated and spent on metro systems nationwide and in Bengaluru, last mile connectivity remains a major problem. Metro designers and planners have time and again failed to consider last-mile connectivity to complete the transport loop.
In fact, metro corporations in all cities have been set up as special purpose vehicles, which is answerable to no one, to overcome political and bureaucratic hurdles over budgets that municipal corporations face. For instance, BMRCL has faced strong opposition from citizen groups for the felling of trees. Yet continues to garner more funds even after running into huge losses after the initial allocation has been used up.
Read more: Metro vs citizens
The cheaper green option
A paper on Policymaking Towards Green Mobility in India study tells us that during 2014-17, only Rs 1236 crore under the Atal Mission For Rejuvenation And Urban Transformation (AMRUT) project were allocated to buses. While metro projects nationwide were allocated Rs 2,63,770,000 lakh crores.
In earlier articles, CM had argued how the BMTC, after a push from the National Green Tribunal, has taken steps towards introducing BS-VI buses in its fleet. A study titled, “Migration to Bharat Stage (BS) VI: Emission Control, Fuel-Grade, Automotive Electronics and ECU Challenges” too suggests that the shift to BS-VI buses will ensure emission control.
But the focus on metro has scuttled even such basic measures as creating bus priority lanes, according to Srinivas Alavalli of Janagraha. Let alone achieve its objective of being a greener, complementary mode of public transport along with other options.
BMRCL’s reports to the Forest Department can be found here.
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