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Urban India now needs sustainable transportation: Study

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India's urban population increased by more than 70 percent to 377 million in 2011 as compared to 217 million registered in 1991

NEW DELHI, INDIA: The second phase of Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, that is slated to begin next year, must focus on sustainable- and environment-friendly transportation to keep Indian cities healthy, experts maintain.

"Our transportation system is not sustainable. We are already facing a lot of problems. In the coming years it is going to worsen. We must plan and act now," said Amit Bhatt, strategy head for urban transport at Embarq India, a non-profit organisation.

Bhatt, whose organisation works with local transport authorities for the development of environment-friendly transport systems, said a lot of money was spent on building roads and flyovers earlier, but it was not creating a sustainable system.

According to him, the desired results were not achieved in the first phase of the the urban development ministry's flagship programme that ran from 2007 to 2012. More than 60 percent of the $20 billion under the first phase was spent on flyovers and roads.

"Whatever has been done is not sustainable. We would want to see the programme to be focused on helping the mobility of people and not the vehicles," he said of the mission that was launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as a fully-funded government scheme.

Embarq India recently released a study -- "National investment in Urban Transport" -- that recommends changes in existing policies and programmes related to urban transport. The study was supported by Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation, an organisation that works in the clean energy policy space.

"India is experiencing urbanisation at a scale it has never experienced before. The only way to keep our cities healthy and productive is by integrating land use with transport," said Himani Jain, programme manager, transport, Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation.

Bhatt, who is one of the authors of the study, said the report had made some concrete recommendations to improve the urban transport system.

"We have submitted our recommendations to the urban development ministry as well as the Planning Commission," Bhatt said, hoping that some of the suggestions would be incorporated in government's policies especially in the second phase of the mission.

Bhatt said the emphasis should be on the use of non-motorised transport.

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