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[NEW DELHI] With greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions rising in India’s major cities, experts are calling for improvements in transport, domestic power consumption and other sectors.   

A new paper, due to be published next month (April) in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews studies GHG footprints in seven major Indian cities including Bangalore, Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai.  Delhi emits 38.6 million tonnes of GHGs annually followed by Mumbai at 22.8 million tonnes.

TV Ramachandra, lead author of the study and faculty at the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, tells SciDev.Net that public transport has to improve and be competitive. “Most cars have one person in it.” 

Transport accounts for 32 per cent of total emissions in Delhi (12.4 million tonnes), 43.5 per cent (8.6 million tonnes) in Bangalore and Hyderabad’s share is even higher at 56 per cent (7.8 million tonnes).  

“These are very interesting results and are indicative of the sectors that policy makers and city planners should focus their attention on in each city,” says Kunal Sharma, senior programme manager at Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation, a Delhi-based organisation that supports the design and implementation of policies towards sustainable energy.

The next biggest area is the domestic sector — lighting, appliances, cooking etc. Electricity amounted to about 30 per cent of emissions in Delhi, and about 39 per cent in Chennai and Mumbai. Electricity consumption in various sectors accounts for 15—24 per cent of emissions in most major cities.

Ramachandra notes that high-rise buildings with glass façades are a major contributor to emissions in Bangalore. He estimates that while a traditional building consumes 1300—1500 units of electricity per person per year, comparable glass façade buildings can consume 15,000 units.

“These buildings are good for a European climate where you need to trap heat, not for a tropical one like Bangalore,” says Ramachandra. “You can’t copy paste these designs — they are contributing to global warming.”  

A limitation of the study is that it relies on data from 2009, the most recent year for which the GHG emissions were available. Some experts like Sharma argue that GHG profiles can be particularly useful to the government as it rolls its ‘100 Smart Cities’ plan.

“Carbon footprints of cities can facilitate useful inter-city comparisons on efficiencies and how cities are designed, or will be,” says Sharma, “Additionally, GHG footprint benchmarks can be identified that cities can strive to attain in the future, say 10-20 years from now. With the emphasis on developing 100 smart cities, such metrics will be extremely useful in articulating the government’s vision for these cities.”

But Ramachandra disagrees. “If the current growth in cities continues, we will have slum cities and not smart cities. Such cities have to be self-sufficient and self-reliant,” he says. 

Ramachandra also believes that the trend or rural populations migrating to the cities need to be reversed through incentives and facilities in the rural areas. “What we need are smart villages.”

> Link to the paper in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's South Asia desk.