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Communities dependent on natural resources have long faced injustice in both the Philippines and India. Now, thanks to the work of WRI and its national partners in The Access Initiative, victims of pollution and environmental degradation have a better chance in getting redress before special environmental courts and tribunals.
India: The National Environmental Appellate Authority (NEAA) of India is an administrative court that hears appeals against project approvals where an Environmental impact Assessment was legally required and which had a longstanding reputation for almost always siding with developers against communities. TAI partners challenged several NEAA decisions before the New Delhi High Court and were victorious. Not only did the Court agree with the criticisms leveled against the NEAA, but TAI’s efforts made it clear that the institution needed far reaching reform.
Independently, the Ministry of Forests and Environment introduced a Green Tribunal Bill in the Indian Congress which sought to abolish the NEAA and establish a green tribunal that would hear environmental disputes throughout the country. Concerned that some clauses would limit the scope of environmental dispute resolution, TAI partners successfully developed a critique of the bill and a nationwide campaign for its reform, resulting in ministerial level meetings and the incorporation of most of TAI’s proposed revisions in the final bill, passed in May 2010.
Philippines: In April 2010, the Philippine Supreme Court adopted official “procedures for environmental cases” to be used for civil, criminal and special civil actions brought before the country’s regional, metropolitan and municipal trial courts. This guidance has enabled the Philippines newly established network of environmental courts - the most extensive in any country worldwide - to avoid long-winded and expensive cases. The newly established procedures include provisions to simplify trials, make them speedier, and lower their cost, including by awarding fee waivers for the poor. They also enable courts to monitor and ensure enforcement of judgments.
TAI Philippines, a coalition of NGOs led by the Ateneo de Manila School of Government, drafted the groundbreaking “bench book” for the Philippines’ new environmental courts, supported by WRI which provided finance and training support. In an early demonstration of the effect of these new procedures, plaintiffs in 150 separate villages are filing a collective suit to compel the government to plan water use in the face of climate change.
Ahmedabad launched South Asia’s first complete BRT in October 2009. Janmarg, which means “the people’s way” in Gujarati, focuses the city’s massive growth into sustainable, high-capacity bus corridors. By 2014, Janmarg will serve 90 kilometers and carry 175,000 daily passengers.
Ahmedabad’s success was made possible through the support of several partners, including EMBARQ, whose India staff exposed city officials to best practices of bus rapid transit design and operations during study tours to Mexico City, Mexico; Bogota, Colombia; and Curitiba, Brazil. EMBARQ also conducted an in-depth review of the Janmarg system in August 2009 and provided ongoing advice to the project’s technical leader, CEPT University, to help reinforce critical design concepts.
Indore is one of the fastest growing cities in India, faced with the daunting task of providing a modern and efficient public transit system to its 1.8 million residents. Rising to the challenge, Atal Indore City Transport Services Ltd. (AICTSL) established an effective and well-organized transit agency to operate and manage the city’s public transport system. AICTSL is India’s first long-term public-private partnership (PPP), which has enabled the city to expand its transit system to 225 buses and double capacity to 220,000 daily trips. The city also began developing a BRT system, which is expected to be operational by June 2011.
CST-India was instrumental in AICTSL’s success by providing technical support for Indore’s successful request to the Ministry of Urban Development to fund 170 new buses, and preparing and negotiating contracts with private partners. CST-India also helped plan bus routes, develop vehicle specifications, establish AICTSL’s organizational structure, and design and implement a performance monitoring system. In addition, EMBARQ advised on important changes to the BRT system design, including high-platform island stations to ensure level-boarding, making the system more efficient, convenient and accessible for all passengers.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) Act, passed by the Indian Parliament in May 2010, established a court to deal with environmental disputes throughout the country. Though hailed as a progressive mechanism for victims of pollution and environmental degradation to seek redress, the government delayed putting in place the needed infrastructure, staff, and judges for over a year. The deadlock was broken when environmental groups that are part of The Access Initiative in India took the issue to the Supreme Court, which ruled in their favor, forcing the government to implement the tribunal.
This turn of events underlines the influence and effectiveness of The Access Initiative (TAI) which is co-led by WRI. Established in 1999, TAI is the largest network of civil society organizations in the world dedicated to ensuring that citizens have the right and ability to influence decisions about the natural resources that sustain their communities. TAI-India has become a visible and influential player in India’s environmental governance arena.
Following the Supreme Court’s intervention, India’s National Green Tribunal started functioning on July 4, 2011, hearing thirty-five cases in the first two weeks. TAI India members won another victory when they brought to the media’s attention a stipulation in the Act requiring petitioners, when filing for environmental damages, to pay one percent of the compensation claimed. Following media coverage, the Minister for Environment and Forests, immediately withdrew the regulation requiring fees, which would have deterred poor people from seeking the tribunal’s help.
Indian citizens will now have unfettered access to an environmental court – an important step in advancing environmental rights in the world’s largest democracy. Although the court now functions in only New Delhi, the government plans to expand its presence to five other locations.
Jaipur, in northern India, is a tourist destination well known for its forts, palaces, and gardens. The city is also witnessing a rapid growth in its trade and manufacturing industries, and an influx of people from small villages and nearby towns in search of employment, education, and a better standard of living.
Facing high transport demand and lacking a formal public transport system, the city is partnering with EMBARQ India to help manage the reorganization of bus services, as a crucial first step toward a modern, sustainable transport system. Technical assistance from EMBARQ, WRI’s Center for Sustainable Transport, included guidance on fare structures and contract negotiations to reduce operational costs. We also helped develop tools for bus schedules and for monitoring performance to improve quality of service.
The public response has been overwhelmingly positive. Ridership on the Jaipur bus system increased from 65,000 in July 2010 to 172,000 in March 2011, and the city is planning to expand the system from 200 to 400 buses. India’s Ministry of Urban Development recognized Jaipur’s new bus system as a best emerging initiative at its annual urban mobility conference.
Urban transport in India, the world’s second-most populous country, has wide-ranging effects on local public health and safety, as well as on the global environment.
The number of auto-rickshaws in Indian cities has doubled between 2003 and 2010, offering significant opportunities to promote more sustainable transport. In a move to reduce pollution, improve road safety, and boost service, in July 2012, the city of Rajkot in Gujarat launched India’s first organized fleet service for auto-rickshaws.
EMBARQ India helped design and implement the pioneering fleet service, which sets a precedent for other cities seeking to provide sustainable public transport choices for India’s soaring urban population.
Reforming Rickshaws, Promoting Sustainable Transport
Auto-rickshaws are used for 10-20 percent of daily motorized road trips in India’s urban centers. Fleets range from 30,000 vehicles in medium-sized cities such as Rajkot (population 3.8 million) to 150,000 vehicles in Mumbai. While they provide a crucial form of intermediate public transport—especially for low-income residents—auto-rickshaws raise health and safety concerns. Their two-stroke engines are a major source of PM10 (soot) emissions, and poor design and maintenance can threaten passenger safety. Traditional lack of management of the sector creates additional problems, including informal fares and empty trips that generate unnecessary pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
Rajkot’s solution was to launch G-Auto – India’s first city-supported, privately operated fleet auto-rickshaw service. Managed by the city government in partnership with Nirmal Foundation, a charitable trust, G-Auto launched with 100 vehicles and will expand significantly over time.
Benefits for passengers include reliable, meter-based services; trained drivers; dial-in, doorstep pickup services; and dependable auto-rickshaw presence at bus terminals, railway stations, and the airport. In terms of broader sustainable transportation policy, G-Auto promotes the use of public transport and reduced reliance on private motor vehicles.
Making Change Happen: WRI’s Role
EMBARQ India was a key partner in designing and implementing Rajkot’s organized auto-rickshaw fleet. In April 2011, EMBARQ India signed an MOU with the Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC) to help the city implement the sector reforms.
Based on our service-model concept, RMC invited bids to run the fleet service. EMBARQ India then drew up the pioneering partnership agreement and helped organize the service launch.
EMBARQ India is continuing to monitor the service and provide technical support. There is great demand to replicate the Rajkot model in other Indian cities. In August 2012, the city of Surat led the way, launching a pilot rickshaw fleet of 35 vehicles, with aspirations for significant scale-up.
A growing number of countries and companies now measure and manage their emissions through greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories. Cities, however, lack a common framework for tracking their own emissions—until now.
Thirty-three cities and communities from around the world started pilot testing the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions Pilot Version 1.0 (GPC Pilot Version 1.0) last month. The GPC represents the first international framework for greenhouse gas accounting for cities. It was launched in May 2012 as a joint initiative among WRI, C40, and ICLEI in collaboration with the World Bank, UN-HABITAT, and UNEP.
Madhav Pai is the Director of EMBARQ India. He is based in Mumbai and provides overall leadership and management to this program he co-started 5 years ago. EMBARQ India currently engages over 30...
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