WRI established its India office in 2011. We work with leaders in business, government, and civil society to expand clean energy development, combat climate change, and develop sustainable transport solutions. Learn more about our work in India. Visit the WRI India website.
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.