How will Indo-German Cooperation Foster Green Mobility in Tamil Nadu?

In the Indo-German cooperation – scenario, a significant project paved the way for making Indian cities greener. Notably, the city of Chennai in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Under the project, climate-friendly modernization of buses in major cities of Tamil Nadu, the state government has signed an agreement with KfW, the German Development Bank to the tune of over 203 million Euros which will facilitate sustainable transportation.

Special Secretary to Government, Tmt Pooja Kulkarni, IAS (in Tamil Nadu), spoke to DWIH about the project and Indo-German co-operations to facilitate Green Mobility. Below is a short interview with her. This interview was conducted in 2020.

Q1: How is the Indo-German cooperation on green urban mobility helping the state of Tamil Nadu make its public transport eco-friendly?

As part of the Indo-German cooperation, an Agreement has been executed between the Government of Tamil Nadu (GoTN) and KfW, for a project involving modernization and restructuring of the Transport Corporations (bus sector) to improve operational performance, environmental outcomes, service quality, passenger satisfaction and financial sustainability. KfW is extending a soft loan of Euro 200 million to finance this project. 

To my understanding, this is the first time that a State Government has decided to undertake induction of such a large fleet of eco-friendly e-buses under an externally aided project.  

The TN Transport Corporations have a combined fleet of about 24,000 buses, more than 50 percent of which are over aged. Resultantly, there are immediate adverse environmental impacts in terms of higher emissions and higher consumption of fossil fuels. There are also consequential impacts, such as reduction in patronage of public transport and concomitant increase in private transport, as a result of fall in standards of service with an ageing fleet, in turn leading to higher emissions.  

The restructuring project envisages replacement of the over aged fleet by procuring 10,000 BS-VI buses and 2000 e-buses, of which in the first phase covered by this agreement, 2213 BS-VI and 500 e-buses will be procured. This is the first significant initiative taken up by GoTN to induct e-buses on a large scale. Needless to state, the replacement of over aged buses by fuel efficient BS-VI buses and e-buses will result in immediate gains in the form of reduced emissions and consumption of fossil fuels. The project envisages a target based approach in reduction of CO2, CO, NOx and particulate matter emissions and enhancement of bus ridership.  

Another critical project component is modernization of bus depots to meet the requirements of housing and charging e-buses. Consequently, environmental issues which currently plague depots, such as discharge of effluents without adequate treatment and emissions would also get addressed.  

Q2: How important a role does cooperation between various actors in both India and Germany play in promoting sustainable transportation in India?  

A project of this magnitude requires technological and technical support of a high degree. The association with KfW lends the project international visibility and credibility, which is expected to attract leading international consultancies to guide the planning and execution of the project. The role of the private sector in introducing better technology also deserves mention. Daimler has established a large manufacturing facility near Chennai which, apart from trucks, produces the BharatBenz buses.

Q3: Could you let us know about some significant developments that can be expected in the sphere of green urban mobility in Tamil Nadu?  

In partnership with KfW, Tamil Nadu hopes to execute the Transport Corporations modernization and restructuring project beyond the first phase and complete the introduction of 2000 e-buses. The objective is also to significantly enhance patronage of public transport through improved service quality, passenger convenience and multi modal integration, so that share of individual private transport drops, leading to cleaner mobility choices. The Chennai Metro Rail (CMRL) services are also being developed and the CMRL is working with the Chennai Bus Transport Corporation (MTC) to provide last mile linkages and integrated services. The state is also encouraging nonmotorized transport and towards this end, pavements are being redesigned to make them pedestrian friendly and exclusive cycling tracks are being introduced.